Verstappen and Leclerc receive engine-related penalties and will start at the back of the grid on Sunday
By Olivia Kairu
Valtteri Bottas topped both Friday practice sessions in the circuit that gave him his first and last wins to date in Sochi.
The Finn set a flying lap time of 1.33:593s in the FP2 which Lewis Hamilton was unable to beat, coming just 0.044s off his teammate’s time to earn P2, where he also finished in the morning. The Briton knocked over the Mercedes front jack man while driving into a pit stop during FP2.
Championship leader Max Verstappen will join Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the back of the grid for Sunday’s race as a result of engine-related grid penalties following a change in power unit in his Red Bull.
The dutchman faces a second penalty following the issue of a three-place grid penalty from the Monza collision with Lewis Hamilton.
A new combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-K, MGU-H and his third energy store have resulted in the grid drop.
The Red Bull driver finished the morning session in third and the afternoon run in sixth, struggling with the set up of his car and complaining on radio that it was “impossible to pass with my top speed”.
Drivers wasted no time on the track in what was expected to be the only dry day of the race weekend following predictions of rain similar to the conditions that held up the Belgian Grand Prix.
“It could always go better, but if you look at the lap times and based on the feelings, it was a good day,” Bottas said.
“From the first run I had good confidence with the car, the balance was actually very good, so all we had to do were minor adjustments during the day. I could really just focus on the driving and finding small gains here and there. But I’d say that both in the short and the long runs I was pretty comfortable.”
“There is more to come, but I think tomorrow is going to be wet, so it’s going to be a completely different day.”
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Both the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr were first out of the garage and onto the track this morning during the first practice session. A new hybrid system is being introduced in Leclerc’s car, with the new power unit providing useful pieces of information for the 2022 season brand-new car.
“Charles will be the first to have the new hybrid system. This decision is a precautionary measure relating to the potential risk of using the battery pack damaged in his Hungarian GP accident,” Ferrari said in a statement.
“In Sochi, Leclerc will have a brand new power unit and will therefore start from the back of the grid. As to when the updated hybrid system is fitted to Carlos’ car, that will be decided following an evaluation of the right compromise between competitiveness and the impact of the penalty.”
Leclerc briefly held P1 with a 1.36:708s on the soft tyre at the beginning of FP1 and continued darting in the top 5 throughout the session before finishing ahead of his teammate in P4.
Sainz stayed P7 in both sessions improving on his FP1 time during his qualifying simulation runs in the second practice session with a 1m 34.678s lap ahead of Leclerc who rounded up the top ten in P10.
Highs and lows for McLaren
Italian GP winner Daniel Ricciardo faced challenges in his McLaren in the morning session after running low in P14 during first practice to an even lower seventeenth in FP2.
The McLaren driver missed out on a large amount of the second session after the team detected an engine-related issue that led to them switching it out for an already used Power Unit.
His teammate Lando Norris, however, showed a considerable amount of pace with a 1.34:154s lap time that earned him P4 from his previous eighth fastest time in the FP1.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon both set frequent lap times that secured positions within the top 10.
The Frenchman bested his teammate in the second practice session to come in P5, four-tenths ahead of the two-time world champion.
Sebastian Vettel and Canadian Lance Stroll enter the weekend with renewed contracts, however, only the German was able to remain within the top 10 in both Friday sessions while Stroll fell through the ranks from P12 to P15.
Pierre Gasly maintained his streak of top 6 finishes after battling for third with McLaren’s Lando Norris, and also managed to finish Friday off in P3 just 0.252s off Bottas’ time on the medium compound, the same tyre Mercedes used to set the fastest time.
However, the AlphaTauri driver brought out fleeting yellow flags at the end of the session after losing his front wing after going over the curb at Turn 2.
His teammate Yuki Tsunoda had an unusual smooth but yet disappointing session, trailing in the back of the grid in P18 in the second session after coming in P16 in the morning run.
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Antonio Giovinazzi has a lot to prove in order to retain his seat at Alfa Romeo after an unsatisfactory home race in Monza and a collision into the barrier after losing the rear at Turn 8 that red-flagged the session on Friday in Sochi.
The Italian driver caused a substantial amount of damage to the rear of his car and was instructed to stop as he made his way back to the pit as the car was losing parts.
Giovinazzi finished in P14 behind his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who returns to racing this weekend after recovering from COVID-19 and missing both the Belgium and the Italian races.
George Russell ran outstandingly in 13th during the second practice session, improving from his P17 morning result. The Mercedes-bound Briton driver was followed by Canadian Nicholas Latifi in P16, who also improved on his time from previously running that earned him 18th place in the FP1.
Also with renewed contracts for the 2022 season, the Haas duo rounded up the running in the bottom of the timesheet with Nikita Mazepin in P19, ahead of teammate Mick Schumacher.
The Russian driver received a penalty for speeding in the pit lane, going 7 km/h faster than the pit lane speed limit and has been fined £1,000 ($1,700 CAD).
The Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi circuit is set for Sunday at 8 AM EST, 5 AM Pacific Time. The Qualifying session on Saturday is also set for the same time.
See the full FP1 results:
See the full FP2 results: