French GP Practice Two: On-song Lewis Hamilton at the double for Mercedes, Ferrari off the pace

Hamilton outpaces Red Bulls as Merc confirm spec two engine; Ferrari off the pace; Perez loses a wheel

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 10/12/18 1:55pm

An in-form Lewis Hamilton topped Practice Two by well over half a second as Mercedes laid down an ominous marker to their rivals at the French GP.

Hamilton, who led a Silver Arrow one-two in the first session, made it a Friday double in some style later in the day as he outpaced Daniel Ricciardo by 0.704s, with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen just behind.

Though Valtteri Bottas was unable to take part in the qualifying-runs on ultrasoft tyres due to a cooling problem and finished down in seventh, Hamilton’s pace proved the immediate success of Mercedes’ new ‘2.1’ spec engine.

Mercedes have now confirmed the upgrade, which is being used on all six cars in France and thought to be worth at least a tenth in lap time, and it seems Hamilton is reaping the benefits.

“The new engine feels clean and fresh, but we won’t really know its full potential until tomorrow when everyone gets to turn their engines up,” said Hamilton.

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Title rival Sebastian Vettel endured another frustrating session, however, finishing more than a second behind the driver he leads by a single point in the championship standings.

Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was a place ahead in fourth, but still 0.887s off Hamilton.

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But the Scuderia have been the main ‘sandbaggers’ of Friday practice this season – so a challenge for Saturday’s qualifying session and beyond is certainly not out of the question.

Much like Practice One when Marcus Ericsson’s blazing Sauber caused a red flag, there was another bizarre stoppage in the session when Sergio Perez inexplicably, for now at least, lost a wheel while on a flying lap.

The Force India driver, just before the halfway point of P2, was going through the high-speed Turn Seven when his left rear tyre came loose, rolling down the circuit and causing him to spin off.

Fortunately the tyre didn’t interfere with another driver – but the FIA are investigating the incident.

Romain Grosjean enjoyed another impressive session at his home race for Haas, once again finishing best of the rest in sixth, just one hundredth behind Vettel.

Fernando Alonso was a significant improver, ending eighth for a McLaren team who have been trialing new parts on their car on F1’s return to France and Paul Ricard.

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