Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fastest during the first practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. The Finn set his fastest time to go four hundredths of a second faster than his fellow Finn, Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes.
Ferrari, who have looked strong in recent weeks are beginning to emerge as the early challengers to Mercedes. But, they will need to be cautious, as Mercedes have dominated this circuit since the first race here in 2014. However, Mercedes know they can’t take this for granted.
Current championship leader Sebastian Vettel could only manage fifth splitting the two Red Bull’s, with Max Verstappen fourth and Vettel’s former team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo sixth after a suspension change.
Sergio Perez wasn’t far off the pace of the front runners with him seventh fastest ahead of the Williams of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were eighth and ninth, separated by just 0.05s, on a circuit the team is expecting for a strong weekend following success in Sochi over the past three years.
Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten, that was despite his engine cover blowing off his Force India. Ocon’s engine cover fell off in the braking zone for Turn Two putting debris onto the track and bringing the red flag out so the debris could be removed from the track.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was just outside the top ten ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. While Sergey Sirotkin’s first outing of the season, as Renault’s revere driver was cut short with engine difficulties. The Moscowvite’s session was cut short after an engine problem.
He tried to restart the car, but race control intervened with the car being removed to a service road and him not being able to return to track.
Fernando Alonso was thirteenth in his McLaren which was 2.7s off the pace. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, already onto his fourth engine of the season, finished the session by complaining about a loss of power in his engine.
This is another sign of the crumbling situation and tensions between McLaren and Honda. The issue now a recurring theme, a lack of power and the loss of power, which is not good for the Belgian who is on his fourth engine out of five for the season.
Carlos Sainz was fourteen ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, whose 16 laps accounted for most of Renault’s relevant running.