Valtteri Bottas led the first practice session of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes, half a second faster than runner-up Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo and 0.6s quicker than third-place Red Bull driver Max Verstappen – while championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished the session down in P19.
Bottas, who revealed he visited a church after losing out at Mugello in the last race, is looking for divine intervention in Round 10 of the championship as team mate Hamilton leads the title race by 55 points going into Sochi.
The Finn set his fastest lap in FP1 on the soft-compound tyre while Hamilton’s session was compromised by early lock-ups both on the softs and the hards, which flat-spotted his rubber and ruined his chances of setting any quick lap times – as evidenced by his fastest being 2.793s slower than his team mate’s.
Runner-up Ricciardo was 0.507s off Bottas, but faster than third-place former Red Bull team mate Verstappen, who said on Thursday that he expects the likes of Renault and Racing Point to catch up to Red Bull in Russia.
FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2020
Practice 1 results
|3 MaxVERSTAPPENRed Bull Racing||+0.654s|
|4 SergioPEREZRacing Point||+0.873s|
|5 LanceSTROLLRacing Point||+1.042s|
The Racing Points were just behind the leading Red Bull, fourth-place Sergio Perez in front of P5 Lance Stroll. Perez was due to get crucial performance updates in Russia but Stroll’s crash in the last Grand Prix have delayed Racing Point’s development, meaning only the Canadian has the new parts this weekend.
The top six was rounded out by Renault’s Esteban Ocon, with home racer Daniil Kvyat taking P7 for AlphaTauri. Kvyat was the fastest driver of the session on medium tyres, the top six all having set their fastest laps on softs.
Eighth-place Alex Albon was on soft tyres for Red Bull – just ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in P9 and over three-tenths faster than medium-shod AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, who rounded-out the top 10.
The session was punctuated by two crashes, the first for Carlos Sainz. He brought out a Virtual Safety Car with just half an hour gone having spun backwards into the Turn 7 barriers, leaving his McLaren’s rear wing hanging off precariously. He finished 12th quickest in the session.
Thirty minutes later, Nicholas Latifi went similarly sideways into the Turn 10 barriers and his Williams’ rear wing suffered the same fate as Sainz’s. This time, a red flag was brought out while the car was recovered. Neither driver emerged again in the session, but the damage is expected to be fixed for FP2.
Latifi’s team mate George Russell finished 17th, to split the Haas drivers. Kevin Magnussen was 16th and Romain Grosjean, who struggled with his car’s balance and spun at Turn 13 with a tailwind, 17th.
Ahead of Magnussen were the Alfa Romeo pair, led by Antonio Giovinazzi (P14) over Kimi Raikkonen (P15) – who is on the verge of becoming the joint-most experienced F1 driver, along with Rubens Barrichello, this weekend with his 322nd start.
The teams have to wrestle with the uncertainty of having the softest tyres in the Pirelli range on offer this weekend, so for the first time this season we are going to see the red-banded C5 soft tyres in use. Can Ricciardo keep up Renault’s impressive form in FP2? And will Hamilton get his weekend back on track? We’ll have full coverage of the second practice session this afternoon right here on F1.com.