Hamilton tops charts on first day of French GP practice

French Grand Prix 1976

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in Friday's two practice sessions for the French Grand Prix, while his top rival struggled to figure out the unfamiliar track as Formula One returned to the country for the first time in a decade.

The Mercedes star has leapfrogged Sebastian Vettel who was holding onto a narrow lead in the points table. Quite how the Dutch 20-year-old deals with a new track remains to be seen as Red Bull try to get the most out of their Renault engine before switching to Honda from next year.

Hamilton also had a close call when forced to swerve off course to avoid ramming Stoffel Vandoorne and slalomed around two rows of bollards before returning to the flow.

"We were strong today, the team did a really good job", he said.

"That said, I have scored points in every single race I have finished, and hopefully tomorrow will be one of those Sundays".

Ricciardo, victor of two races this season and still mulling his future options, was third fastest for Red Bull in the first session in 1:32.527.

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F1's rising French star Charles Leclerc put in an impressive qualifying performance in front of his home crowd, securing eighth on the grid in his Sauber.

Heavy rain kept cars mostly in their garages during Saturday's final practice, when Bottas topped the timesheet.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Frenchman Pierre Gasly, Mexican Segio Perez in the second Force India and Dane Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas.

There was gloom at McLaren, with last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours victor and double world champion Fernando Alonso only 16th. I remember the last race at Paul Ricard in 1990, but I never got the chance to compete.

"I was three-tenths down all the way up to Turn 12".

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