SOCHI, Russia – Valtteri Bottas swept both free practice sessions Friday as part of a Mercedes one-two punch on the opening day of the Formula One Russian Grand Prix.
Bottas’ best lap around the 18-turn, 3.634-mile Sochi Autodrom, turned during FP2, was 1:33.519. He bested teammate Lewis Hamilton by just over a quarter second.
“There’s definitely more to come but overall, it was a positive first day of running,” said Bottas, who earned his first F-1 victory at Sochi in 2017. “Conditions were quite tricky out there and that’s why there were so many drivers making mistakes. There were a few interruptions, and that meant we were a bit limited with running, and I also had a big lock-up which destroyed a set of tires. Second practice was better, and we managed a lot of laps, but I still didn’t quite get all the sectors right. The first two sectors felt really good, but the car was a bit too nervous in sector three.
“I was doing some rally-style drifting at times, which probably isn’t the fastest way around, so there’s still a lot of time to find. But we’re in good shape and I’m sure we can make improvements ahead of tomorrow.”
An incident-laden day saw McLaren’s Carlos Sainz crash into the barriers during the first practice round, while Max Verstappen spun at turn 14 in FP2 and his Red Bull teammate, Alex Albon, slid wide at the same point as well.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was another driver who encountered trouble in Friday practice, spinning into the barriers at turn 10 before rebounding in the second session.
All the other chaos aside, Hamilton still ended up second-quick overall with a time of 1:33.786, as he chases his record-tying 91st F-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton was just 19th-best in opening practice after failing to post a representative time due to multiple tire lock-ups, but came back with a vengeance later in the day.
“The car has been performing really well here, but it wasn’t the smoothest day for me, so there’s work to do tonight both on the driving side and set-up wise,” noted Hamilton. “The day didn’t start very well, as first practice was pretty poor. I had a lock-up at turn two on the soft tire and then when I went onto the hard compound, I completely destroyed them, so FP1 was scrapped. The second session was a lot better, but I wasn’t able to put all the sectors together, so it’s still a work in progress. I was a bit down in sectors one and two, but sector three was nice.
“The grip levels today were pretty low and that made things tricky out here, with a lot of sliding around, but I’m sure it will grip up and things will be closer tomorrow.”
Third-best on the combined time sheets was Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who pieced together an impressive performance with a best lap of 1:34.577, though he was a second off the leading Mercedes of Bottas.
The McLaren duo of Sainz and Lando Norris followed in fourth and fifth, respectively, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez ending up sixth as the top-six times for the day all came in FP2.
Verstappen was still seventh at 1:35.048 despite his spin, with the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel landing eighth and 10th in the order thanks to a rear-wing upgrade which has afforded the Prancing Horses some additional lap speed.
The second Renault of Esteban Ocon was sandwiched between the Ferraris in ninth.