Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc beat Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen to the top of the timesheets as the practice sessions for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix got underway at Sochi Autodrom.
The Monegasque driver finished just under a tenth of a second ahead of his Dutch rival with Singapore Grand Prix-winner Sebastian Vettel third in the second Ferrari. All three drivers set their fastest times on the soft tyre while Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, fourth and fifth respectively, set their best laps on the medium compound Pirelli tyres.
The opening part of the session saw Hamilton go quickest on softs with a lap of 1:36.031s despite telling his team that his brakes had not worked properly during the run.
After the teams handed back the opening set of tyres Mercedes then moved to harder tyres for the remainder of the session and on the medium tyres Bottas ended up the quicker of the two Silver Arrows. The Finn posted a best time of 1:35.198, over four tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton.
With softs onboard Leclerc then dismissed those times comfortably and the Ferrari driver jumped to the top of the order with a lap of 1:34.462. It would remain the benchmark until the end of the session.
Verstappen’s name did not figure at the sharp end of the order for much of the session as he restricted himself to harder compound tyres for much of the session. However, in the final 20 minutes he moves to soft rubber and vaulted to second place just 0.082s behind Leclerc.
With Vettel in third ahead of the two Mercedes, sixth place was taken by Alex Albon in the second Red Bull. The Thai driver, who won the Formula 2 feature race in Sochi last year, ended the session just over a second adrift of Leclerc. Both Red Bulls, as with both Toro Rossos, will take grid penalties this weekend due to changes of Honda power unit elements.
Best of the rest status in the session wen to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. The German set a best time of 1:35.740 to finish more than half a second up on eighth-place team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Sergio Pérez was ninth for Racing Point and the top-10 order was rounded out Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
2019 FIA Russian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 20 1:34.462
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 25 1:34.544
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 20 1:35.005
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 28 1:35.198
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22 1:35.411
6 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 22 1:35.484
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 21 1:35.740
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 20 1:36.287
9 Sergio Perez Racing Point 27 1:36.321
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 23 1:36.516
11 Carlos Sainz McLaren 28 1:36.523
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 25 1:36.538
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 21 1:36.596
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point 26 1:36.714
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 22 1:36.770
16 Lando Norris McLaren 30 1:36.844
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 18 1:37.328
18 George Russell Williams 27 1:38.520
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 5 1:38.550
20 Robert Kubica Williams 29 1:38.670