Russian GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

Icing it

 

By Dan Knutson

Kimi "The Iceman" Raikkonen topped the opening round of practice for the Russian Grand Prix in his Ferrari.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

In FP1, however, Russia's Sergey Sirotkin replaced Hulkenberg in the Renault.

After his trip to the U.S. to get his first taste of IndyCar racing, Alonso was settling back in at McLaren.

"Coming back here is not too difficult because you know the routine, the car, how to push to the limit," he said I Russia. "You know the tires, all the improvements that we have for this race, all the things you talk with the engineers about, the strategy meetings, everything is just normal, so it like a normal day.

"It is not difficult to jump in the car and give 100 percent after lap 3 or 4. That is quite easy. The big challenge is to go back there next week [for the test at Indianapolis] and drive fast there. I am looking forward and it is a good test for me as well. It is what is really motivating."

Wehrlein was the first driver out on the 3.649-mile (5.872 km) 16-turn Sochi track under clear blue skies.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Centigrade).

Nico Rosberg went fastest in FP1 last year with a time of 1:38.127 in his Mercedes shod with the super soft Pirelli slicks.

This year, Rosberg's replacement Bottas posted the first lap time in FP1 with a 1:39.871 in the Mercedes on the soft compound Pirellis.

Sirotkin's practice ended quickly when his engine stopped at Turn 2. The team radioed instructions for him to try restart: "OK Sergey, can you press the brakes, pull the clutch, and press the overtake button to see if it starts the car?" It didn't work and he was done for the day.

Ten drivers recorded lap times in the first half hour, and Bottas topped those times with a 1:36.998 on the super softs. Everybody else was on the softs including Vettel who was second and 0.7 of a second slower than Bottas.

Then Bottas improved to a 1:36.119.

At the 40-minute break, when the drivers have to hand back a set of tires, the top 10 were: Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Perez, Massa, Verstappen, Ocon and Sainz.

"We're seeing big track evolution, so times should come down in the last half-hour of the session," Pirelli tweeted as action resumed.

And sure enough Raikkonen posted a 1:36.074 on the super softs.

Things came to a halt with 24 minutes remaining when the session was red flagged so that the engine cover that had flown off Ocon's Force India could be retrieved off the track. Things got going again three minutes later.

Vettel had a quick spin, missed the wall, and returned to the pits.

The Iceman remained unbeaten, so the top 10 at the end of FP1 were: Raikkonen, Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Perez, Massa, Stroll and Ocon.


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