Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session of the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on September 28, 2018. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

The Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix weekend is underway. A thrilling fight between the top teams is expected to happen on Saturday and Sunday. Mercedes Lewis Hamilton was the fastest driver on Friday, with a fastest lap of 1:33.385s.

Valtteri Bottas was second in FP2 to his teammate Hamilton. The two Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the Scuderia Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen lined up behind the two Mercedes drivers.

Russian GP – Takeaways from Friday Practice

Both free practice sessions were in dry conditions, with a cloudy FP2. The track had rubbered down in the second session and offered more grip to the cars. Ferrari topped the timesheets in FP1 with Vettel, followed by Verstappen, both on the pink-striped hypersoft tire. Mercedes decided to run on the purple-striped ultrasoft and the yellow-striped soft tires in FP1.

The Pirelli tire choice for this race is the yellow-striped soft tire, the purple-striped ultrasoft tire, and the pink-striped hypersoft tire.

The main takeaways from the two practice sessions were:

  • Ferrari was fastest in FP1 with Vettel’s time being a 1:34.488s on the hypersoft tires. However, both Mercedes drivers were three-tenths and five-tenths respectively behind on the soft tire.
  • Mercedes predictably dominated FP2 when they elected to run on the pink-striped hypersoft tire.
  • Unpredictably, Red Bull lined both drivers ahead of the Ferrari pair in the most-important FP2, which might indicate that Ferrari is a step behind in Russia.
  • The fight in front is expected to be between the usual suspects, Mercedes and Ferrari since the two Red Bull cars will serve penalties due to Power Unit changes.
  • Hamilton’s fastest lap of Friday is two-tenths slower compared to Vettel’s pole lap from last year at Sochi.
  • In the midfield, Force India looks strong. Esteban Ocon was the only official driver for the pink team in FP1 and finished sixth. While Sergio Pérez took over from Nicholas Latifi in FP2 and ended seventh.
  • Renault, Haas, Sauber, and Toro Rosso seem to be engaged in a mixed battle for the last point-scoring positions. While McLaren, who put Lando Norris in Fernando Alonso‘s car for FP1, and Williams were on the last spots of the timesheets.
  • Alonso will join the two Red Bulls and both Toro Rossos to start the race from the back of the grid due to penalties.

The Last Word

Mercedes has dominated in Sochi since its entrance in 2014. Even though Ferrari locked the front two in last year’s qualifying, things look menacing for Mercedes’ main rivals for this weekend. Considering its recent history on Fridays and the approach it has taken in the majority of the starts of the weekend, Ferrari might have some more pace to show in the upcoming events of the Grand Prix weekend.

Results of FP1:

Results of FP2:

MAIN PHOTO:
Embed from Getty Images

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