Verstappen warns of Mercedes backlash in France

The German team returned to the top of the time sheets in FP1 at Paul Ricard

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:35 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:36 am
Max Verstappen was third fastest on Friday morning

Max Verstappen believes Mercedes will be the team to beat again as F1 returns to ‘normal tracks’ again after struggling on street circuits recently.

The Dutch Red Bull Racing driver took the lead of the championship after winning in Monaco and looked on course to make it back-to-back victories in Azerbaijan until a late tyre failure forced him into retirement.

This weekend, F1 heads to France and a Paul Ricard circuit Mercedes have won at every time F1 has raced there since returning to the country in 2018.

Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton in FP1

And it was the Silver Arrows who set the pace in the opening free practice session, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the way, ahead of Verstappen, who was four tenths of a second back, and Perez who was seven tenths slower.

Verstappen has a four point advantage over Hamilton heading into the race, and he believes the seven-time world champion will be back towards the front again this weekend.

He said: “I’m feeling good but I’m sure that Mercedes will be very strong on the ‘normal’ tracks again, so we have to keep pushing and keep improving right to the very end because it’s never enough.

“So far the season has been pretty good to us but we need to remember that there are still a lot of races ahead of us.

“I am happy with the race results that we have had so far and that we are leading the championship but we also have to be there leading it in Abu Dhabi.”