Russian GP 2020

SEPTEMBER 25, 2020

Friday Report - Pretty Special

Valtteri Bottas, Russian GP 2020
© Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

By Dan Knutson

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas’ first ever F1 victory came when he won the 2016 Russian Grand Prix.

“The first win is always pretty special and you never forget it, so I’ve always had good memories from here,” he said. “Actually, since the beginning, when we started to race here, it has normally been a pretty strong place for me, even at Williams. It’s a good track!”

Bottas kept up the pace as he topped both Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 on the opening day of the Russian Grand Prix..

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Bottas; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc; Red Bull Honda – Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon; McLaren Renault – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon; AlphaTauri Honda – Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly; Racing Point Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll; Alfa Romeo Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Williams Mercedes – George Russell and Nicolas Latifi.

Latifi and Sainz both crashed in FP1 while a number of drivers had spins on the dusty 18-turn Sochi Autodrom.

Grosjean and Norris were the first out in FP2. The ambient temperature at the start of the session was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Centigrade).

And it was Bottas who set the early pace with a 1:36.065 on the hard Pirelli slicks. But Hamilton soon beat that at 1:34.890 on the mediums. Ricciardo, also on the mediums, slotted into second by turning a 1:35.341.

Just past the 20 minute mark Bottas retook the lead by setting a 1:33.883, only to have Hamilton set a 1:33.786. Both were running the soft compound slicks.

So at the one-third point of FP2 the order was: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Perez, Albon, Norris and Raikkonen. But the other drivers had yet to do their qually runs.

Hamilton then set the fastest time in the first two sectors of the lap only to slid off at Turn 13. Bottas then did have the fastest times in the two sectors, but not in the third, to get back in front with a lap of 1:33.519.

Stroll was the next to try to soft tires, and he jumped up to fifth place. Teammate Perez grabbed third. Others were now doing their red tire runs, including Vettel who moved into fourth behind Bottas, Hamilton and Perez. But then Ricciardo found third place, albeit a full second slower than Bottas.

More red runs followed. Halfway through the session the order was now: Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Norris, Perez, Verstappen, Ocon and Vettel. Then Sainz sneaked into fourth. Verstappen had a spin but didn’t hit anything.

The last third of the session was devoted to race simulations.

So the top 10 at the end of FP2 were: Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc, Ocon and Vettel.