Valtteri Bottas was fastest by half a second in the first practice session for the Russian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver set his fastest time on the soft tyre which put him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while his teammate Lewis Hamilton was only nineteenth appearing to focus on set-up.
It was a difficult session for both Mercedes, Bottas and Hamilton both aborting laps after locking up. Bottas set his fastest time on the soft tyre, before damaging his mediums, Hamilton meanwhile damaged his softs and then focused on long runs.
The six-time champion lost his soft run later in the session as well, after McLaren’s Carlos Sainz lost the rear of his McLaren after putting his left-side wheels onto the outside kerbs approaching the Turn Seven, left-hander and he spun off, hitting the barriers backwards and breaking his rear wing.
Williams Nicolas Latifi had a similar mistake at Turn Ten, which left him down in twentieth two and three-quarters seconds off the pace.
The Sochi Autodrom is the only ‘street circuit’ on the calendar this season, given the nature of the circuit accidents and mistakes are common.
Ricciardo was second fastest by half a second down on his soft run but finished the session over a tenth faster than former teammate Max Verstappen. The Red Bull managed to out pace the Racing Point’s by two tenths. Ricciardo was eight tenths faster than teammate Esteban Ocon in sixth.
Going into this weekend, Red Bull said they feared dropping into the midfield and the very early signs suggest that may well be the case, with Renault, in particular, a threat on a high-speed circuit.
The two Racing Point’s again proved they are in a strong position this weekend, Sergio Perez fourth eight tenths off the pace and he was just under a tenth and a half faster than teammate Lance Stroll.
Daniil Kvyat made a decent start to his home Grand Prix, he put his Alpha Tauri seventh-fastest almost three hundredths quicker than the Red Bull of Alex Albon. Sebastian Vettel was the highest Ferrari, but a second and four hundredths off the pace in ninth, he was ahead of the second Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly.
Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc ran wide following the red flag, he appeared to be battling with the Haas of Romain Grosjean. He was eleventh fastest almost two seconds off the pace, but with Ferrari’s struggles, that’s to be expected.
McLaren had another low-key Friday morning, Carlos Sainz twelfth fastest two seconds off the pace but he did go over a tenth faster than his teammate Lando Norris.
The two Alfa Romeo’s were fourteenth and fifteenth, with Antonio Giovinazzi going three hundredths quicker than Kimi Raikkonen. Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was a further two tenths behind in sixteenth.
Like Grosjean, George Russell locked up into Turn Fifteen but still managed to get his Williams into seventeenth to spilt the two Haas’s.