After a two-week break, the Formula 1 circus was back in action at Sochi for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix. Despite rain initially being forecast for the weekend, conditions were promisingly dry but windy on Friday’s FP1.
As expected, Mercedes started their Russian weekend strongly, hogging the two top positions during the one-hour session at Sochi Autodrom. Valtteri Bottas carried his strong form from Monza, taking the top spot, with his teammate, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton second, 0.211s off his pace.
Championship leader Max Verstappen, dealing with a three-place grid penalty courtesy of his Monza crash with Hamilton, was third only 0.016s off Hamilton’s time. Sergio Perez however, was ninth in the sister Red Bull over 1.5s off his teammate’s time.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, sampling an upgraded power unit (relegating him to the back of the grid), was a welcome fourth, a further five tenths off the leader. Promising stuff from the Monegasque if he maintains this form, as he will need all the pace he can muster to recover from his grid penalty.
Recently confirmed for 2022 with Aston Martin, Sebastian Vettel was a strong fifth albeit 1.354s off the top time with Lance Stroll 12th, and two seconds off the benchmark time.
On the weekend of AlphaTauri’s 300th race, Pierre Gasly was on it as usual, taking sixth place, compared to his rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda a lowly 16th.
Carlos Sainz was seventh ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris in eighth who had a moment while entering the pits at the end of the session. With Daniel Ricciardo in 14th place, it seems that the Woking outfit is facing a sobering weekend after the highs of Monza two weeks ago.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso rounded up the top 10 for Alpine ahead of Esteban Ocon in 11th.
Notably, Italian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo was only good for 14th, nearly a second shy of his McLaren teammate Norris.