Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc at the top of the times on Friday as Ferrari dominated second practice for the French Grand Prix ahead of world championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
The Ferrari pair swapped fastest laps in a closely-contested session in bright sunshine, Sainz making light of the prospect of a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after taking new power-train components.
The Spaniard, who scored his maiden victory at the British Grand Prix earlier this month, clocked a best lap in one minute and 32.527 seconds to beat his Monegasque team-mate by 0.101seconds.
Verstappen was a competitive third ahead of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in the two freshly-updated Mercedes and Lando Norris who was sixth for McLaren.
Kevin Magnussen was seventh for Haas ahead of Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren and Sergio Perez, in the second Red Bull.
The session was uninterrupted and largely uneventful as the teams adapted to the heat – the track temperature was 50 degrees and the air 34 degrees – in front of a big holiday crowd.
The circuit is sold out for both Saturday and Sunday, according to the organisers at the Paul Ricard circuit, where the two Alpine drivers set the initial early pace with Fernando Alonso topping Esteban Ocon before Magnussen and then Russell took over until Leclerc arrived.
The reinvigorated Leclerc, who won the last race in Austria, had been quickest in the first session and was swift to pick up where he left off in the earlier action.
As expected, it was a tight contest and four minutes later Verstappen edged ahead by 0.010 seconds only for Sainz, facing a grid penalty on Sunday, to sweep clear at the top by 0.850 in 1:33.322.
The heat appeared to have a soporific effect on everyone for a short period before Leclerc returned to beat his Ferrari team-mate’s time by 0.186 only for the Spaniard to respond and jump six-tenths clear.
It was clear that Ferrari had found a sweet spot in their car set-up, but Verstappen was close to matching them on soft tyres, the Dutchman moving up to second briefly before Leclerc replaced him.
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