Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen topped the times in the first practice session of the Russian Grand Prix weekend, by just one tenth of a second from Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Valtteri Bottas, as the Italian squad lay down the initial marker ahead of Sunday’s race.
The Finn set a time of 1:36.074 to take the top spot on a set of super-soft tyres, and looks to have a good handle on the Sochi Autodrom circuit, although no one really did a qualifying run or race simulation during this initial practice session, and therefore, it is difficult to gauge who has the real upper hand so far.
Lewis Hamilton ended the morning down in third place and five tenths off the pace of his team-mate, in a session that was not the smoothest for the Brit, who experienced a number of lock ups during the morning’s running. Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen was fourth quickest, despite struggling with the RB13 towards the end of the session, reporting over team radio that his rear tyres were too hot, and the front ones were too cold and there was nothing more he could do.
The Dutchman was just ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had a big spin late in the corner on one of his final hot laps, losing the rear of the SF70-H whilst exiting Turn 16. The German had been on relatively old super-soft tyres at the time, and was able to recover without problem, before returning to the pits.
Vettel had posted the quickest time on the soft compound tyre earlier in the session, but was unable to get a clear lap in to show what he could really do on the softer of the compounds.
Daniel Ricciardo was back in sixth, only six hundredths of a second down on the Ferrari, perhaps due to the Australian selecting the wrong modes on his second hot lap, with Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team driver Sergio Perez lining up in seventh, to make him the first of the next best teams.
Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa was eighth, just four hundredths of a second ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll, in what was an impressive effort from the rookie Canadian. With Esteban Ocon completing the top ten.
The Frenchman caused a red flag with twenty minutes of the FP1 session remaining, having lost his engine cover at speed when a fixing came loose, which the marshals then had to clear from track. Replays showed the cover flying off the VJM10 at speed and exposing the engine, before being launched high into the air and landing at the edge of the circuit.
Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was eleventh for the first practice session of his home grand prix, where he will be hoping he does not repeat the outcome of last year’s incident packed race.
Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen was three tenths further back in twelfth, and just one tenth of a second up on McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team driver Fernando Alonso. It appears progress has been made with the mapping of the Honda engine this weekend, with reports from trackside reporters that it is sounding much better, and the drivers are no longer gear shifting in strange places. Some good news for McLaren fans.
Carlos Sainz Jr, who has a three-place grid penalty to serve this weekend following his collision with Stroll in Bahrain, was fourteenth, ahead of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Jolyon Palmer.
Romain Grosjean, who was once again struggling with the handling of the VF17, was sixteenth. Having reported over team radio that he was struggling with the rear end early doors, before concluding that the diff could be the root of the problem at the end of the session.
Stoffel Vandoorne was seventeenth, and had been enjoying a reliable morning until with just five minutes left until the chequered flag; the Belgian reported a loss of power over team radio. He did make it back to the garage, but it was a disappointing end to the team’s session.
The two Sauber F1 Team drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, were eighteenth and nineteenth, with just the stricken Renault Sport of young driver Sergey Sirotkin behind them.
Sirotkin replaced Nico Hulkenberg in the RS17 for this FP1 session, but unfortunately, for the young Russian his session came to an end before it had really started.
Having completed just 15 minutes of running, an installation lap and a run down to Turn 2, the RS17 came to a halt on track. Sirotkin reported engine problems to the team over the radio and explained that a fault had appeared on the dash, but despite his engineer running through the reboot process, he could not get the Renault restarted, and was eventually pushed off track by marshals before being returned to the pits, and his session was over.
With little information to take from this FP1 session, it will not be until the afternoon running that we can determine who is on target to take the upper hand on race day.
2017 Russian Grand Prix – FP1 Results
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