Vettel quickest but Hamilton ominous on Soft tyres – FP1 Report

Russian Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was quickest in the first practice session in Sochi, but will be worried about the pace shown by Lewis Hamilton on the slower tyre.

Vettel finished the first practice session at the Sochi Autodrom as fastest man; he powered his Ferrari around in 1:34.388 on HyperSoft tyres to go P1. This was 0.050 quicker than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was also using the HyperSoft tyre for his quickest run.

Lewis Hamilton finished P3 on the timesheets, just under half a second down on Vettel’s best time, but the Mercedes man used the Soft compound Pirelli to do his best laptime – the Soft being the hardest compound available to the teams for this weekend.

The two Mercedes ended up very close on times – Valtteri Bottas slotted into P4 behind Hamilton with a 1:34.999 and just over a tenth down on Hamilton on the same tyres. Daniel Ricciardo was half a second further back in P5, with his best time in the Red Bull set on the HyperSofts.

Esteban Ocon placed his Force India in P6 on Hypers, displacing Kimi Raikkonen from what would be an expected top six position. The Ferrari driver ended the session in P7, having used the UltraSoft tyres as a direct comparison against Vettel’s Hypers.

Kevin Magnussen celebrated his contract extension at Haas by placing his car in P8, ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg. Antonio Giovinazzi was first of the new blood in the session, with four rookie drivers taking part. Giovinazzi, who is a signed race driver for Sauber next season, drove Marcus Ericsson’s car and put in a 1:36.712 on HyperSoft to finish P10.

Outside the top ten, Romain Grosjean finished P11 for Haas with Pierre Gasly P12 for Toro Rosso. Lando Norris, sitting in Fernando Alonso’s car, was P13 for McLaren and, despite an early scare where he almost hit the wall, showed well in his second practice showing for the team. Charles Leclerc was P14 in what was a fraught session for the Sauber driver. He struggled with the rear of his car throughout the session and went off track on several occasions, radioing in towards the end in frustration as he asked his engineers to figure out why the rear was so loose.

Artem Markelov, the young Renault rookie from Russia, fared well in front of his home crowd to finish his outing in P15. Stoffel Vandoorne was P16 for McLaren, Nicholas Latifi P17 for Force India as the Canadian took over Sergio Perez’s car for the session, and Sergey Sirotkin P18 for Williams in his first track time in front of his home audience. Brendon Hartley finished P19 in the second Toro Rosso, with Lance Stroll at the back in P20 after a spin during the session.

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Thomas Maher

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