Valtteri Bottas led the first Friday practice session for the Russian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull rival Max Verstappen under the sun at the Sochi Autodrom.
Perhaps in anticipation of his three-place grid penalty on Sunday, Verstappen began the session on soft tyres and set the benchmark time after 20 minutes. But Bottas eclipsed that when he switched from hards to softs half-way through the session, team mate Hamilton following suit to finish two-tenths off the Finn in P2. That left Verstappen in third when he improved late on, just 0.016s off Hamilton.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who has a new power unit and a number of impending grid penalties as a result, also began the session on softs and finished fourth ahead of former team mate Sebastian Vettel in P5 in the Aston Martin.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took sixth with a late run on softs, while Carlos Sainz took P7 in the other Ferrari, and Lando Norris – who had a bizarre moment when he hit the wall on his way back to the pits at the end of the session – finished eighth fastest for McLaren.
FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:34.427|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.211s|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||+0.227s|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+0.690s|
|5 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin||+1.354s|
Sergio Perez finished ninth for Red Bull, 1.5s behind his team mate, while Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 for Alpine. Ocon’s team mate Fernando Alonso was just 0.061s behind in P11.
In twelfth place was Lance Stroll, the Aston Martin driver two seconds off P1, and in P13 was Antonio Giovinazzi for Alfa Romeo – his team mate Kimi Raikkonen having returned after missing Zandvoort and Monza to finish 15th here in Russia.
Between the Alfa Romeos was Monza winner Daniel Ricciardo in P14, the Australian understandably elated as he arrived at Sochi on Thursday.