Russian Grand Prix – Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton ended fastest for Mercedes after the opening hour of track action in Russia.
The Sochi weekend kicked off with blue skies and sunshine greeting the scarlet of the Ferraris when they headed out onto the empty track as the first free practice session started. However, the forecast for the remainder of the weekend is for cloud and rain, so today’s session might see the fastest times we’ll get this weekend.
As reported yesterday, Charles Leclerc will have to work his way up through the pack on Sunday as he is facing grid penalties for having a new powertrain, after having already used his allowed number of units. The upgrade though does seem to be an improvement as the Monegasque driver was the fastest of the opening ten minutes with a 1:36.708 and did stay near the top of the times for the remainder of the session.
The last driver to emerge from the pits was championship leader, Max Verstappen, who headed out over ten minutes after the session got underway and a few minutes later was on top of the times with a 1:36.055 set on the soft compound, beating the previous best, Valtteri Bottas’ hard tyre best of 1:36.412.
The Finn then pitted to switch to the red-ringed tyres and then resumed his spot at the head of the leaderboard going over a second faster than the Red Bull with a 1:34.427 just before the half-hour mark.
The other half of the championship battle, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wasn’t able to match his teammate during the session heading into the final twenty-five minutes in P2, just over two tenths off Bottas’ time.
The only session interruption came with twenty-three minutes left on the clock as there was a very brief Virtual Safety Car to allow a marshal to remove a piece of debris from the circuit.
The final part of the session was mostly uneventful as times stayed mostly stable and cars stayed on the black stuff, Antonio Giovinazzi did attempt to add some drama with a smoky, tyre-destroying lock up at the end of the session.
After the chequered flag, as he was heading into the pitlane, Lando Norris’ rear seemed to lock up making the McLaren spin and introduce his front wing to the wall. There was only slight damage done and the Monza P2 driver was able to recover and deliver the car to the garage.
Despite being late starting his session, Verstappen also ended it early in P3 with a 1:34.654, the Dutchman putting in the fewest laps of anyone, 13 compared to the 25 Bottas completed. Leclerc was fourth, 0.690 off the best and the last driver within a second of the top Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel was the fastest of the Aston Martins, his 1:35.781 putting him fifth, just ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who was 0.013 behind the German in sixth. Carlos Sainz’ 1:35.811 saw him seventh, 1.384 off Bottas while Norris was a further couple of tenths off in eighth, just over a second and a half off the best time.
The top ten was rounded out by the second Red Bull, with Sergio Perez putting in a 1:36.188 and Fernando Alonso just ahead of his Alpine teammate with a 1:36.225 in tenth.