F1: Hamilton goes fastest; Alpine’s surprise as Verstappen faces major Spani...

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Published Time: 22.06.2024 - 00:00:47 Modified Time: 22.06.2024 - 00:00:47

“These lunatics, all those mad out there - take a shrink.” F1

“This was not from a member of the team, this email is upsetting, somebody talking death,” he said.

“These lunatics, all those mad out there - take a shrink.”

In hot sunshine, a welcome change after Thursday’s scirocco rain and dust showers from the Sahara, Hamilton was making an early statement of intent at a track where Mercedes celebrated a double podium last year.

In third came the McLaren of Lando Norris, followed by the surprisingly quick Alpine of Pierre Gasly.

Verstappen could only muster fifth ahead of Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari, who earlier this week had acted as Olympic torch bearer on his very own streets of Monaco where he had claimed his maiden home Grand Prix last month.

After all the data-crunching from opening practice drivers emerged for the late afternoon session, with Verstappen straight away reporting his Red Bull’s “weird understeer”.

George Russell, who ended up eighth overall, was quick out of the blocks, the Mercedes pole sitter from Montreal last time posting an early best lap of 1min 14.089sec.

His friend Norris led the chasing pack one tenth of a second adrift ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen.

After a quiet FP1, Leclerc was motoring, posting the third quickest time as Sainz, who has never made a podium on home tarmac, rose to the top - both Ferraris looking to bounce back from a double DNF in Montreal.

Hamilton, a record-equalling six-time winner at the circuit, was also going encouragingly and took command at the midway stage in the latest positive sign of a return to form by Mercedes.

Gasly, who earlier was wearing a French football shirt ahead of Friday evening’s France clash with the Netherlands at Euro 2024, climbed to fourth.

Norris had laid down an encouraging marker when topping the times in opening practice.

After a hard-to-read session as teams toyed with set ups and upgrades Norris had edged Verstappen in the three-time world champion’s Red Bull by 0.024 seconds.