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Valtteri Bottas takes top spot in opening French GP practice

Valtteri Bottas takes top spot in opening French GP practice
© Reuters
The Mercedes driver saw off his team-mate by 0.335 seconds at the Paul Ricard Circuit.

Valtteri Bottas beat Lewis Hamilton to top spot in opening practice for the French Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver saw off his team-mate by 0.335 seconds at the Paul Ricard Circuit.

Championship leader Max Verstappen finished third for Red Bull, one place ahead of Sergio Perez, winner of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier this month.

Bottas arrived in the south of France as a man under pressure following a lacklustre display in Baku, where he started only 10th and finished 12th.

But his opening salvo of the weekend will provide him with a much-needed boost of confidence heading into the remainder of the seventh round of the campaign.

The Finn is already 57 points behind Verstappen in the standings, with Englishman George Russell waiting in the wings for a seat at Mercedes next year.

However, it was not a session without incident for Bottas after he sustained damage to the floor of his Mercedes by running over the rumble strips at Turn 2.

Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows expressed his anger at the incident to FIA race director Michael Masi, claiming it could cost his team a six-figure bill.

Bottas' team-mate Hamilton is four points adrift of Verstappen but following two off-colour weekends in Monaco and Azerbaijan, the British driver's Mercedes team appear better placed to take the fight to Red Bull.

Indeed, Verstappen finished almost half-a-second adrift of Bottas in the opening hour, with Perez, who took advantage of his team-mate's tyre blowout in Baku to claim his maiden win for Red Bull, seven tenths back.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel ran into the barriers at the fast-sweeping Turn 11 but was able to limp back to the pits for repairs. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Haas driver Mick Schumacher also suffered spins on Formula One's return to Le Castellet after last year's round was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Esteban Ocon, who earlier this week agreed a three-year extension with Alpine, finished fifth ahead of McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, with double world champion Fernando Alonso seventh.

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Esteban Ocon pictured on October 4, 2018
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Ocon retains Mercedes link despite Alpine deal

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States19201352
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151238
Great BritainGreat Britain9101231
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events

· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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