Lando Norris topped the timesheets in a sunny Free Practice during the FIA Formula 2 Championship round at Le Castellet, France, the Carlin driver setting a 1:45.562 lap in the first fifteen minutes of the session to head ART Grand Prix’s George Russell and BWT Arden’s Maximilian Günther.
With sweltering conditions at the Circuit Paul Ricard the Trident pair of Santino Ferrucci and Arjun Maini kicked off the session, while MP Motorsport’s Ralph Boschung opened the session with the first timed lap – albeit above the two-minute mark. Louis Déletraz of Charouz Racing System wound the times down further, before Norris smashed the Swiss driver’s benchmark by over six seconds, dropping into the 1m54s laps.
Déletraz hit back shortly after, becoming the first man to enter the 1m40s before teammate Antonio Fuoco leapfrogged him to place both Charouzes at the top. Norris then returned to the top, clearing Fuoco by almost six-tenths of a second despite a slide in the final corner. Alexander Albon (DAMS) was next to wrest control of the timing boards before being pipped by Déletraz.
Norris then set the first time in the 1m45s, grabbing a 1:45.562 which would later emerge as the headline time, despite Russell’s best efforts to challenge – the Brit posting a time with everyone’s focus switching to race pace after the first 15 minutes. Albon looked set to join the fray, but a mechanical issue forced the Thai driver to retreat to the pits for repairs – his glacial return brought out a brief yellow flag period, aborting the stream of hot laps.
A further yellow flag period was brought out for Artem Markelov, who lost the rear end of his RUSSIAN TIME-run car and spun, becoming stranded in the run-off at the mid-point of the session. Race simulations continued until the death of the session and, although the drivers towards the bottom of the timing boards found some improvement, there was little change at the head of the field.
Norris’ time remained unbeaten, keeping first place ahead of Russell, while Günther grabbed third from Nyck de Vries (PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing) – who suffered a slight moment on the exit of turn 12 while attempting to challenge for the fastest time. Déletraz placed fifth ahead of Albon, who was able to return to the track after his early issues, with Luca Ghiotto (Campos Vexatec Racing) in seventh. Jack Aitken of ART, Campos’ Roy Nissany and Markelov completed the top 10.