The Scuderia Ferrari team had a mixed day on track at Sochi, with one half of the garage faring better than the other. Fernando Alonso continued his inter-team domination by being inside the top four in both Friday free practice sessions, while Kimi Raikkonen struggled for grip and finished lower down the order.
Alonso was able to have a good day in Russia, finishing fourth in free practice one and third in free practice two. He felt comfortable on track, and found his car worked well on both compounds of Pirelli tyre, and is looking to get a good qualifying position on Saturday afternoon.
“The track is very unusual and I didn’t think that Formula 1 had already got such a large following here,” said Alonso. “Also surprising today was the good level of grip from the track surface, which is unusual on a brand new circuit. From this point of view, I felt comfortable right from the first lap and that helped a lot when it came to today’s most important job, namely learning the track.
“We worked a lot on set-up and found the two compounds had behaved in similar fashion and tyre performance improved as the laps went by. The track is very hard on brakes, but that is a specific thing we can work on this evening to be well prepared for qualifying.”
Team-mate Raikkonen was more downbeat after finding himself struggling for front end grip once more, and he struggled to put a good lap together. He ended the morning session in eighth but slipped outside the top ten to eleventh in the afternoon, two seconds off the pace of the Mercedes team at the front.
“This first day of practice was given over to learning the track, which I like and although it’s new, the grip level was good,” said Raikkonen. “In the first session, we went through our programme step by step, even if towards the end of the session I was unable to complete my last run.
“In the afternoon, we focused on tyre behaviour, with both compounds taking a long time to reach the maximum performance, which is unusual, especially for the Soft tyre. In order to have a clearer picture on this topic, we will have to wait for the track to evolve.
“Unfortunately, here too I still don’t feel comfortable with the front end and this prevented me from putting together a good lap. Now, along with the team, we will try and find a solution that will allow me to get the most out of the car.”