Kimi Raikkonen tops the first practice session at the Russian Grand Prix.
Kicking off the Russian weekend, Raikkonen put a Ferrari on top at a circuit only Mercedes have won at. Laying down an early challenge to the Silver Arrows dominance at the Russian Grand Prix, while Force India saw their engine cover fly from the car.
Ever since Russia gained a championship round and before, only Mercedes had won a Grand Prix in the country. Taking the two non-championship events in 1913 and 1914 and continuing where they left off 100 years later.
The three most recent Russian Grand Prix have also seen only Mercedes drivers lead the race. But as Ferrari continues to look a threat on Sunday’s, that could change in 2017.
That said, Mercedes’ tyre management failings that harm them in the race may not prevalent in Sochi thanks to the less-abbrasive surface. Something that may allow the hardest Pirelli compounds to endure the entire Grand Prix from start to finish.
In FP1, meanwhile, running from start to finish was not something achievable for practice driver Sergey Sirotkin as the Russian stepped into Hulkenberg’s Renault.
The Russian driver would only be in the cockpit for a short while, however, before an engine issue suddenly cut his running short. Actually giving Sergey the chance to attempt an engine reboot via the MGU-H. Although the marshals stepped in before he rolled again as the process took too long.
FP1 also raised issues for Williams and Force India, while ex-Williams driver Valtteri Bottas often set the pace.
For Williams, their two drivers in Massa and Stroll began the session heavily suffering from oversteer as they applied the throttle. Pitching the cars into a wobble that required saving in order to prevent a spin close to the exit wall.
As for Force India, the team whose pace left them jousting Red Bull, saw their engine cover fly from the car as Ocon braked at the end of the main straight.
The moment that Esteban applied his brake and the DRS shut, the pink cover leapt from the car before floating to the side of the track. Leaving enough debris for a brief red flag.
When the session initially went green to start proceedings, it was Daniel Ricciardo who broke the silence as he hit the track straight away with a flow-vis run. Red Bull also informed their driver to avoid the kerbs, something which later pitched Vettel into a spin as he ran on the supersoft rubber.
For now, though, Valtteri Bottas was setting the initial pace on Pirelli’s yellow-walled soft tyres. Setting a 1:39.871, fast enough to edge Hamilton at first before the Briton improved to better by three-tenths.
The margin Hamilton created, however, was inferior to Vettel’s as the German took to the top by eight-tenths of a second. Laying down an initial challenge to the dominance in Russia by Mercedes.
Laps on supersoft rubber later into the session again laid down Ferrari’s challenge to Mercedes. As Kimi Raikkonen lapped four-hundredths faster than all, having seen Bottas again set the pace as he moved 1.6 seconds clear of Vettel.
When Hamilton set his initial time on the red-walled Pirelli’s, he came across the line six-tenths down on his team-mate despite setting the then fastest final sector time. Only later improving his overall time marginally as his Mercedes looked very unsettled under throttle application.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||19||1’37.174||1.1|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||19||1’37.290||1.216|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||29||1’37.457||1.383|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||28||1’38.065||1.991|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Renault||17||1’38.496||2.422|
|14||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||17||1’38.976||2.902|
|20||Sergey Sirotkin||Renault||Renault||2||No time set||—|