Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in the afternoon on day one of track action at the Sochi circuit ahead of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The triple world champion set a fastest time of 1m 37.583s completing 30 laps and speaking following his run, Hamilton commented by saying:
It’s good to be back in the car after what’s felt like a pretty long wait since China. It’s been a constructive day to start the weekend, too. We got through most of our programme except one last little bit at the end as some of my tyres were flat-spotted but no big drama there. I think we’re looking strong here – but we need to keep working hard if we are to try and stay ahead of the Ferraris. They look like they might be another step closer this weekend. We’ve got a few things to look at to make sure we perfect the setup for qualifying, so we shall see how it goes…
Sebastian Vettel was second fastest for Ferrari despite stopping out on track with an electrical issue which curtailed his running meaning that Kimi Raikkonen was left to carry out the majority of the work for the Prancing Horse.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg was third fastest completing a total of 37 laps with a fastest time of 1m 38.450s and speaking following the afternoon session, the German commented by saying:
It’s been a solid start to the weekend. It’s difficult to get it right at this track, as there’s only a small window where the tyres work perfectly and a lot of places where you can easily make mistakes. I didn’t manage to hook up a full quick lap on the SuperSoft in FP2. But, aside from that, it was a good day. The car felt good on a quick lap this morning and again on the longer runs this afternoon, so that’s very encouraging. It’s great to back here in Russia and I very much look forward to the rest of the weekend.
Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe commented by saying:
We ran a fairly regular programme today. There are two main challenges of this circuit. The first is to get a clean lap, as there are a number of tricky braking zones – particularly at Turn Two. The second is to understand how to get the best from the tyres. As a relatively new circuit, the tarmac is still very smooth, making it difficult to generate temperature in the rubber – particularly in cooler conditions like we’ve seen today. Nevertheless, we end the day reasonably happy, with all of our Friday homework complete and both drivers satisfied with setup thus far. We’ve brought some minor upgrades to the Power Unit this weekend, including a new engine oil from PETRONAS. The main test item of the day was to make sure that this package was all working correctly for the rest of the weekend, which seems to be the case. Tomorrow will be all about understanding how to get the best single lap pace out of the car for what will undoubtedly be a close qualifying battle with Ferrari.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was once again just like this morning fourth fastest. The Finn completed 35 laps with a fastest time of 1m 38.793s and ending the session just ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo with Valtteri Bottas in sixth place for Williams Martini Racing.
Daniil Kvyat was seventh fastest in the second Red Bull while it was a great afternoon for the McLaren Honda team as Jenson Button ended the day in eighth place just ahead of Felipe Massa in the Williams while Fernando Alonso in the McLaren rounded out the top ten.
It was two by two after that with Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen ending the afternoon in 11th and 12th place while Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who missed the opening session was 13th fastest for the Silverstone based outfit with a fastest time of 1m 39.795s completing 31 laps and speaking following the track action Hulk commented by saying:
The track conditions were not great this afternoon and the wind made it a bit tricky, but it was the same for everyone and this is what you expect on a track so close to the sea. I still think we have a lot of information to help us make the right tweaks to improve our performance for tomorrow. I am feeling good about the weekend: the track is very enjoyable to drive and it throws quite a few challenges your way.
Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez ended his day in 14th place in the second Force India with a fastest time of 1m 39.869s completing 38 laps and speaking following the session, Checo commented saying:
It’s still quite early in the weekend, but the first feeling is positive. We completed a busy programme with several long runs, so we already have a good understanding of the tyres. There’s still a bit of work to do in terms of balance, but we should be competitive and fighting for a place in the top ten in qualifying tomorrow.
Force India’s Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer commented by saying:
All in all, a routine Friday, even though the overcast conditions this morning made the air a bit colder than what is forecast for qualifying and the race. The afternoon was a bit better and we collected all the data we need to analyse this evening. Sergio’s plan focussed more on long run performance, while Nico had a slightly different programme to account for him sitting out FP1. I feel we can get more out of the car in qualifying trim, so that will be our main focus tonight and during FP3. We are happy with the indications we are getting from our long run data, but choosing the right strategy will be crucial because it’s not easy to overtake here and track position counts for a lot.
Kevin Magnussen was 15th fastest for the Renault Sport F1 Team having sat out the opening session. The Dane set a fastest time of 1m 40.193s completing 41 laps with the Haas F1 Team’s Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean in 16th and 17th place respectively.
Speaking following the track action, Gutierrez commented by saying:
I’m pretty happy how the day went overall, as we managed to complete a lot of laps. We’re not as competitive as I would have hoped, but we gathered a lot of data today. We’ll be looking over that to try and optimize our setup as much as we can. In FP1 we had a small interruption this morning, and then this afternoon we looked to be heading in the right direction. We’re still working on our setup with the supersoft tires, so I think FP3 will be important for us to get a good reference for qualifying.
Romain Grosjean commented by saying:
It was good to be back in the car. Sochi’s a track I quite like. We didn’t have a very easy day trying to assess how to work our tires and how to work the car. We can improve and make the car better. Hopefully, we can find those answers for tomorrow, as our performance is not exactly where we want it to be right now. Again, it’s all about working and learning everything. We’re struggling a little bit today, but I’m sure the guys are going to react well.
Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner commented on his outfit’s performance on day 1 at Sochi by saying:
FP1 we had a small issue with Esteban’s car, which took us about 50 minutes to fix. Then we had to recharge his batteries, but it was no big issue. Between the two practice sessions we had good runs. We did quite a lot of laps – more than we’ve done before in two free practice sessions. We are still chasing our setup for here. We need to get the tires in the window where they work properly. Otherwise, we got a lot of running in and we’ll see what we can come out with for tomorrow morning in FP3.
Jolyon Palmer was 18th for the Renault Sport F1 Team just ahead of the Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr. Manor Racing’s Rio Haryanto ended the day in 19th place just ahead of his team mate Pascal Wehrlein with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson rounding out the order in 22nd place.