Max Verstappen went quickest in the second practice session for the Russian Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by more than three tenths of a second with the quickest Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, third and six tenths of a second off the pace.
Having only achieved a best result of fifth place at the Sochi Autodrom since the race’s calendar debut in 2014, the Black Sea circuit was not expected to be a venue suited to Red Bull, but Verstappen gave lie to that assessment by posting a time of 1:33.162 during his FP2 qualifying run.
The lap put him 0.335s ahead of Leclerc who had claimed top spot earlier as the first of the expected front runners to bolt on a set of new soft tyres and go for a performance run.
Verstappen’s soft-tyre best followed an opening phase run on medium tyres during which the Dutchman lagged two tenths of a second off the pace set by Leclerc.
However, Verstappen’s good low fuel pace give Red Bull hope of scoring a good result on Sunday despite an impending five-place grid drop as both it’s drivers, along with Honda-powered Toro Rosso stablemates Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat are facing PU-related grid penalties on Sunday.
Behind Leclerc, Bottas took third place for Mercedes, though the Finn, who won here in 2017, was only able to get to 0.646s off Verstappen’s pace. Bottas set his best lap of the session shortly after Hamilton and he managed to eclipse his championship-leading team-mate by 0.152s.
Singapore Grand Prix-winner Sebastian Vettel failed to make a significant improvement during his qualifying simulation and having gained just a tenth of a second over his medium-tyre best he ended the session in fifth place, a full second off Verstappen.
Penalty-hit Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly was an impressive sixth in the session finishing marginally ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg eighth.
The German finished the session almost four tenths of a second ahead of 14th-placed team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, and perhaps more importantly two tenths clear of 11thLando Norris, the quickest driver from Renault’s Constructors’ standings rivals McLaren.
Ninth place in the session went to Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point, and the final top-10 spot was taken by Alex Albon in the second Red Bull. The Thai driver spent much of the session in his team’s garage after taking too much kerb early on and damaging the floor of his car.
2019 FIA Formula One Russian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 29 1:33.162
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 33 1:33.497 0.335
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 22 1:33.808 0.646
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 32 1:33.960 0.798
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 32 1:34.201 1.039
6 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 26 1:34.971 1.809
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point 31 1:34.998 1.836
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 33 1:35.026 1.864
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point 31 1:35.176 2.014
10 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 18 1:35.216 2.054
11 Lando Norris McLaren 33 1:35.223 2.061
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 38 1:35.337 2.175
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 26 1:35.351 2.189
14 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 28 1:35.370 2.208
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 34 1:35.374 2.212
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 31 1:35.593 2.431
17 Carlos Sainz McLaren 29 1:35.635 2.473
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 29 1:36.004 2.842
19 George Russell Williams 38 1:36.785 3.623
20 Robert Kubica Williams 36 1:37.838 4.676