Nikita Mazepin had the better day of the two Uralkali Haas F1 Team drivers on Friday, with the Russian enjoying the first day of running at the Sochi Autodrom.
Mazepin, racing in Formula 1 in his homeland for the first time, ended nineteenth fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions in Russia, edging out team-mate Mick Schumacher in both as he continues to gain confidence behind the wheel of the VF-21.
The Russian was happy to complete his planned running on Friday under the Sochi sun, but he is expecting a much different day on Saturday, mainly due to the promise of heavy rain reaching the track that could disrupt the day.
“I love Sochi and I think Sochi loves me because when we arrived here yesterday, I looked at the weather and it was saying it wasn’t going to be very good, but there is nothing like Sochi sun,” said Mazepin. “Especially with that track, it’s fast and then it’s flowing, during the whole lap it’s very enjoyable to drive.
“I wasn’t quite sure what the car was going to feel like, given the balance can be different, but the balance was very similar to what it was like last year in Sochi and although we’re just missing overall downforce and lack pace, I think we’re close to extracting what we had to.
“We completed our run plan for today and let’s see what to expect tomorrow – I don’t think we’re going to get the sunshine like we had today.”
“It’s more about getting to know the car better on every track” – Mick Schumacher
Team-mate Schumacher said he felt ‘quite comfortable’ behind the wheel of his VF-21, even though he finished bottom of the timing screens in both Friday sessions.
Schumacher, who like Mazepin has been confirmed to race for Haas again in 2022, felt the team made some positive changes to the car during the day that made attacking the track easier to achieve, and he feels there is still time to come across the rest of the weekend.
“Overall, I felt quite comfortable,” said Schumacher. “This track isn’t really driven over the year and that meant we had a very green track to start off with.
“I think in general we did some good things on the car, it felt comfortable early on, especially in FP2. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish my lap on the second set but we know that we have it in our pocket.
“Overall, it’s more about getting to know the car better on every track, especially here where I have good memories from F2, to convert that into a good run in F1 is positive. Now, it’s just a matter of putting everything together.”