Mercedes tends to go well at this track which is underlined by the fact that the Anglo-German team has never been beaten at Sochi since the inaugural Russian Grand Prix that took place in 2014. The opening day of this year’s race at Sochi indicated that the picture will hardly be any different to that of the past.
After winning last year’s event, Valtteri Bottas certainly picked up where he left off in Sochi, topping both sessions on the opening day. His team mate Lewis Hamilton was close to him with only hundredths of a second separating the duo in Free Practice 2. With Max Verstappen set to start from the back of the grid thanks to his engine penalty, the defending champion might easily get back to the top of the championship on Sunday.
MercedesLewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:34.638, P2; FP2: 1:33.637, P2
"We had two good sessions today pace-wise. We ticked off as much as we could working through different setup items and had very clean runs with no issues so overall it was a good day. Valtteri and I went quite different with our setups to see which areas work best and we'll spend tonight studying the data to understand where we want the car for tomorrow and Sunday.
“It looks like it will be a lot of rain tomorrow, a big wet day, and we'll have to consider our setup with that in mind but keeping an eye on Sunday which is set to be dry."Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:34.427, P1; FP2: 1:33.593, P1
"If you look at the timings and based on my own feeling in the car, it was a good day. From the first run, I had confidence in the car and the balance was very good so I could focus on my driving, looking for small gains. Tomorrow looks like it will be wet, so it'll be a completely different experience. The main thing is the car feels good on the long runs so that's encouraging for Sunday which should be dry. I really find my flow on this track and I enjoy it - when the car works well here, it's great fun to drive."
Red BullMax Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.654, P3; FP2: 1:34.621, P6
“We thought it would be best to take the engine penalty here in Russia, we took everything into account before making the decision and we of course considered the weather for tomorrow. We had to take the penalty at some point so if we didn’t take it here, we would have taken it somewhere else.
“As for the set up, we are trying to make the best possible race car for this weekend despite starting from the back of the grid. I hope it’s going to work out and we will try to make the best of it during the race on Sunday, for now let’s wait and see what the weather will be like tomorrow.”Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:36.188, P9; FP2: 1:34.938, P11
“I think we have some good information going into qualifying tomorrow, when there won’t be much running due to the rain, so today was probably the last chance we have to test the dry conditions before qualifying. I think there is potential in the car for this weekend, we just have to make sure we get it right. I think my first and second sector looked good but there are some areas to improve in the third sector.
“There are some set up changes we might need to make to the car to suit the weather conditions come qualifying but there are still a lot of interesting things to be analysed later on this evening. With Max starting from the back, it is going to be a bit of a challenge as a Team and obviously Mercedes are very strong around here but hopefully we are able to put some pressure on them and qualify very close to them, that would be ideal.”
FerrariCharles Leclerc - FP1: 1:35.117, P4; FP2: 1:34.925, P10
"We ran different programmes across our two cars today and my focus was on race simulation rather than on qualifying pace as I will start from the back of the grid on Sunday. The track evolution was quite significant over the course of the day. It started out being very slippery this morning and then improved with every run. Graining was not an issue, which was positive. In terms of driving experience, I enjoyed the last sector the most."Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.811, P7; FP2: 1:34.678, P7
"A positive Friday for us in general, mainly coming from a decent balance right from the beginning and the car performing a bit better on this kind of track. There’s still a lot of work to do on the long run side as it looks like there’s some graining on the front tyres. Hopefully we can find a way to work around it for tomorrow, although we are expecting rain and things can change quickly. We’ll see."
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:35.794, P6; FP2: 1:33.845, P3
“It’s been a positive day in terms of performance, this car seems to be working well here so far and it’s a good start going into the weekend. Whilst the performance is there, I’m not 100% comfortable with the balance inside the car yet so we’ve got a few things that we can take away and improve tonight.
“We know both Charles and Max are taking penalties for the race, so there are definitely some opportunities for us this weekend. Our main focus though is on our own package and maximising what we can do to help in our tight midfield battle.”Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:37.794, P16; FP2: 1:35.954, P18
“I’ve struggled with the general grip here so far in Sochi, but I’ve managed to gain important mileage in the car today, particularly for Sunday, as we think the race may be sunny. We know the performance is there in the car so I just need to go away tonight, look at the data and see how I can improve for tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather, so we just need to be as prepared as possible going into FP3 and qualifying.”
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:36.877, P14; FP2: 1:35.630, P17
“This morning, we struggled quite a bit to get comfortable and there wasn’t that much pace. We made some changes with swapping the PU for FP2, but then we had a delay getting out, and then we had yellows, red flags and then people around us on high fuel. It was a bit of a lost session really, so we have some homework tonight. Fortunately, Lando looked more comfortable and quicker in FP2, so we’ll try to learn from that. For us, not the most inspiring day, but still a lot we can work on to improve ahead of qualifying.”Lando Norris - FP1: 1:35.959, P8; FP2: 1:34.154, P4
“Today was a bit up and down – we struggled quite a bit in P1, but we made quite a few changes on the car for the second session which improved things. That progress has made me feel a bit more confident in the car this afternoon and given us a more positive feeling going into tomorrow.
“Some of our strengths from Monza aren’t as obvious at this track, and there’s more of the types of corners here where we’re not as strong. But it can still feel relatively good, it just doesn’t always translate into actual lap-time. We’re not as competitive as we were in Monza, but we still have a decent feeling and we can still be competitive compared to the teams we’re really racing against. There are a lot of things to take into account for tomorrow with the weather forecast, so there’s a lot to think about overnight to prepare ourselves for tomorrow.”
“It was a productive day of running: we covered a good number of laps and found a decent balance with the car. That is positive because it can be tricky to find the flow in Sochi, so I think we have a good starting point. But it looks like it will rain tomorrow.
“That could make for an interesting qualifying session and, because it will mix up the field, it could lead to some opportunities for us, especially with some other drivers taking grid penalties already this weekend. Sunday is looking drier, so today’s positive work is still important. We will make sure we are well prepared tonight and then see what tomorrow brings.”Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:36.522, P12; FP2: 1:35.334, P15
“It is good to be back on track. We have learned quite a bit today and I think there is more to come from me and the car. The forecast is suggesting that rain is going to be a factor tomorrow, which could change the course of the weekend. Obviously, it is a very different experience to drive in the wet and we have never experienced those sorts of conditions in Sochi before. That would be an exciting challenge and we will be prepared for the possibility tomorrow. We will go away and review what we have learned today and then see what the weather has in store for FP3 and qualifying.”
AlpineEsteban Ocon - FP1: 1:36.236, P11; FP2: 1:34.402, P5
“It’s good to be back in Sochi as it’s a track that I’ve always enjoyed racing at. It’s high grip, especially in comparison to Monza last time out. We have the Softest tyres on the range here, so that gives us some things to try and understand. It’s been a very busy day for us, busier than a usual Friday, with half an eye on the weather tomorrow and we aimed to be as productive as possible. Things could be interesting tomorrow, so optimising today was important. We completed quite a few runs - low fuel and high fuel - and we have a good idea on what we can do on car set-up. Let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings but so far, I’m pleased with our progress.”Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:36.225, P10; FP2: 1:34.762, P8
“It was a reasonable day for us today. We don’t know how useful some of the data will be because of the potential rain forecasted for tomorrow, but the car seems to behave okay here. We set up a few different things in FP2 and we found a few benefits, so I am happy with that. We could have achieved a better lap time without the red flag for Antonio (Giovinazzi), but it’s only Friday, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:36.952, P15; FP2: 1:35.052, P12
“It was an okay day to get back to the car. It didn’t feel much different than any other times, and the job we did wasn’t too bad. Things ran smoothly, the conditions were okay so we were able to do our work. First impressions are okay but when it really matters is tomorrow and Sunday. The feeling with the car is okay, but we’ll need to see what happens in qualifying to see where we stack up against the others.”Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.795, P13; FP2: 1:35.178, P14
“The sessions were going pretty well until the incident. FP1 wasn’t too bad and FP2 was an improvement, overall a good start of the weekend. The wind was rather strong, I got a bit of understeer outside the corner, touched the astroturf on the exit and lost the rear. Tomorrow is another day, we need to see what the weather is going to be like and continue our work.”
"It was an interesting day today. The car was feeling good, but the pace wasn’t quite as good as the car was feeling. We will go away and analyse why that was overnight. That positive feeling definitely helped us on the high-fuel pace though, and hopefully that will benefit us if it is dry on Sunday. Tomorrow looks like it could be a washout, but fingers crossed that we get some running in at some point.
“Our performance at Spa definitely gives us added confidence if it is a wet qualifying, but it is a very different style of track and different conditions here in Sochi so we will need to put in the hard work to achieve a good result. If it is going to be dry on Sunday, it will be interesting as the circuit will be very green after the rain and that will make it tricky, so it is not going to be a straightforward weekend."Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:38.155, P18; FP2: 1:35.411, P16
"Today was a fairly tricky day of running, but we made some good improvements from one session to the next which is important. I still feel that we have some things that we can analyse tonight to try and get the car in a better window, and I’ll be looking at the changes I can make to my driving style to find some more lap time. Whilst tomorrow’s weather conditions might mean that a lot of today’s running may not be so relevant, everyone will be in the same position and what we’ve learnt today becomes especially valuable if it’s drier on Sunday."
HaasMick Schumacher – FP1: 1:38.977, P20; FP2: 1:36.230, P20
“Overall, I felt quite comfortable. 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.”Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:38.586, P19; FP2: 1:36.099, P19
“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. 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.”