Formula 1 race weekend for the 2020 VTB Russian Grand Prix is officially underway, and after the first practice session of the day it’s Valtteri Bottas who topped the timesheets at the sunny Sochi Autodrom.
Prior to the weekend, Pirelli announced that they would be softening the compounds in order to provide ‘an additional challenge’ for the race on Sunday. The drivers will now choose from the C3, C4, and C5 selections and two-stop strategies look more likely.
The hour and a half session began at 09:00 BST as Max Verstappen was the first to take to the track and lead his colleagues out the pits. Most drivers were out on the circuit early on in order to maximise their session time in the unusually sunny weather. Verstappen finished third, with his best lap time a 1:35.5
Lewis Hamilton was the first to post a lap time on the board on the weekend where he is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s legendary record of ninety-one wins. He has won four of the six races in Russia, and he’ll be wanting to secure pole tomorrow to maximise his chances of making it 5 wins. He went on to finish the session a lowly nineteenth with a 1:37.7.
Half an hour into the session, the virtual safety car was deployed as a result of debris from Carlos Sainz‘ rear crash structure. The Spaniard lost the backend and spun into the barriers at turn seven, severely damaging his rear wing and causing what was effectively a stopped session for approximately ten minutes. Shortly after Sainz’ incident, home-hero Daniil Kvyat fell victim to the off-camber entry of turn fifteen and dropped it very quickly mid-corner.
Lots of drivers struggled with the dusty surface present on the track, perhaps most evidently Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The two Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team drivers experienced monumental lock-ups, flat-spotting their respective tyres and highlighting the challenges of a street circuit.
With thirty-six minutes to go, Nicholas Latifi brought out the red fag after crashing his Williams FW43 at turn ten- losing the rear like so many others and careering into the wall. The Canadian was therefore unable to complete anymore running and finished the session right at the back in last.
After the session was green-flagged once more, it didn’t take long for more drama to ensue as Romain Grosjean spun and brought out a yellow flag in sector three. The Frenchman aired a characteristically frustrated radio message and went on his way to finish in eighteenth, with his team-mate Kevin Magnussen ending up sixteenth to round up another poor day for Haas F1 Team.
Daniel Ricciardo was second of the twenty drivers with the Australian finishing half a tenth behind Bottas, with his team-mate Esteban Ocon in sixth, whilst the BWT Racing Point F1 Team drivers also completed a day of strong with Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll running in fourth and fifth respectively. The top ten was concluded with Kvyat, Alex Albon, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly.
|1||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:34.923||13|
|2||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:35.430||0.507s||22|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:35.577||0.654s||22|
|4||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:35.796||0.873s||23|
|5||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:35.965||1.042s||20|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:36.061||1.138s||23|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:36.230||1.307s||21|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:36.254||1.331s||24|
|9||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||1:36.323||1.400s||22|
|10||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:36.706||1.783s||25|
|11||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:36.896||1.973s||23|
|12||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||1:36.970||2.047s||8|
|13||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1:37.110||2.187s||28|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing||1:37.201||2.278s||17|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing||1:37.230||2.307s||23|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||1:37.430||2.507s||22|
|17||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:37.595||2.672s||23|
|18||8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas F1 Team||1:37.649||2.726s||24|
|19||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:37.716||2.793s||18|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:37.784||2.861s||11|