Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas led his second consecutive session of the Russian Grand Prix weekend at the Sochi Autodrom, 0.267s clear of team mate Lewis Hamilton – while Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo followed up his second place from Free Practice 1 by going third for Renault.
Bottas, who traditionally goes well at the Sochi track where he scored his first win in 2017, stopped the clocks with a 1m 33.519s lap – over a second quicker than he went this morning when he topped FP1 – while he would have been even faster had he not had a lairy off-track slide at the final corner during his run.
Having finished P19 in FP1 after two big lock-ups, Hamilton got back on track and trailed his Mercedes team mate once again, although he too may well have been faster had he not had another lock-up at Turn 13 on his last soft tyre run – the six-time champion, who’s chasing a record-equalling 91st win this weekend, continuing to explore the braking limits at Sochi ahead of qualifying.
Ricciardo said on Thursday in Sochi that this was one of the tracks on the calendar where he had the most room for improvement. But after taking P2 in FP1 this morning, the Australian followed it up with an impressive third in FP2, 1.058s off Bottas, but a tenth and a half up on his next closest competitor, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz – signalling that, perhaps, that improvement has come already.
FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2020
Practice 2 results
|1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:33.519|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.267s|
|3 Daniel RICCIARDO Renault||+1.058s|
|4 Carlos SAINZ McLaren||+1.204s|
|5 Lando NORRIS McLaren||+1.328s|
Sainz, who crashed into the barriers in FP1, wound up a tenth ahead of his own team mate Lando Norris in P4 – Sainz setting his fastest lap later in the session, as the seldomly-used Sochi track continued to rubber in – while Sergio Perez finished sixth in the update-less Racing Point RP20.
It wasn’t a happy session for Max Verstappen, who clunked the kerb at the exit of Turn 2 on his fastest lap and run wide, leaving him P7, and 1.529s off the ultimate pace – while after Red Bull team mate Alex Albon slid wide at the exit of Turn 14 earlier in the session, Verstappen had a full spin at the same point later on.
With Ferrari having brought updates to their rear wing to Russia, it was a more promising session for the Scuderia, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel ending up eighth and 10th respectively, sandwiching the second Renault of Esteban Ocon, who continued to look less comfortable in the R.S.20 than his team mate Ricciardo.
There was some more sandwiching going on just behind, too, with the second Red Bull of Albon in P12, two-tenths off his team mate and between the two AlphaTauris of Pierre Gasly in P11 and Daniil Kvyat in P13 at his home track, the Russian ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
After spinning his Williams into the barriers at Turn 10 this morning, Nicholas Latifi boosted his confidence by pipping his team mate George Russell to P15 by 0.012s, with Russell P16 ahead of the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll, who spun innocuously at Turn 13 early in the session before failing to string a representative qualifying simulation lap together.
Rounding out the field came the two Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean in P18 and P20, with the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi in P19 – Grosjean over three seconds off the pace, as he suffered a big lock-up at the tricky Turn 13.
At the front, though, and at a circuit where they’ve won every Russian Grand Prix since the race’s inauguration in 2014, it’s Mercedes most definitely on top in Sochi. But after a fantastic day for Ricciardo and Renault, can the Australian maintain his advantage come qualifying on Saturday?