Berlin: Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull was fastest in Friday practice for the French Grand Prix, getting the better of both Mercedes drivers.
Verstappen posted a best 1 minute 32.872 seconds around the 5.842-kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet to narrowly edge out Bottas who was just 8 thousandths of a second slower.
Bottas will be boosted by two strong sessions, having topped first practice, in a week where he denied his departure from Mercedes at the season's end was decided.
Mercedes are looking to bounce back from disastrous performances on the street circuits of Monaco and Baku, and the traditional track in France is much more to their taste.
Reigning champion Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by four points in the standings after six races, was third with 1:33.125 while veteran Fernando Alonso took fourth for Alpine.
The French garage Alpine, formerly Renault, have strong home hopes for Sunday's race after Esteban Ocon took sixth, behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Final practice is Saturday ahead of qualifying for Sunday's race. -- AFP