RACE DEBRIEF

    It was an uncharacteristically scrappy Friday for Lewis Hamilton in Sochi, as the six-time champion trailed team mate Valtteri Bottas across both Free Practice 1 and 2 for the Russian Grand Prix. But Hamilton was confident that he could bounce back and be in the fight on Saturday.

    A pair of lock-ups in Free Practice 1 left Hamilton an unrepresentative 19th of 20 drivers, while he looked on track to pip Bottas in FP2 before another lock-up at Turn 13 scuppered his lap, leaving him 0.267s adrift in P2 – but with Mercedes well clear of the rest of the field.

    READ MORE: Bottas heads Hamilton in second practice at Sochi as Ricciardo impresses in P3

    But with our analysis of the ideal laps – compiling the drivers’ best individual sectors – indicating that Hamilton had a potential advantage of 0.140s over Bottas, the reigning champion didn’t seem unduly bothered by the look of the timesheets on Friday.

    “I think the car’s been performing very well, I’ve just got a lot of work to do tonight, but it’s nothing new,” he said on Friday evening.

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    Hamilton struggled to get in the groove around Sochi

    “I didn’t feel like I was particularly quick today. It didn’t start off very good – P1 was pretty poor. I had a lock-up at Turn 1 on the soft tyre, then went out on the hard tyre and completely destroyed the tyres, so P1 was scrap. And then into P2, it started off a lot better, just a little bit down in the first and second sectors, but the last one was nice.

    “I haven’t put them all together, but it’s a work in progress. There’s just some things I need to improve on the driving side and set-up wise.”

    READ MORE: Verstappen expecting tough fight for P3 in qualifying as Renault and McLaren impress in Sochi

    Bottas headed the times in both sessions on Friday, completing his second straight clean sweep of Friday practices. But with the Finn having gone massively wide at the final corner on his own fastest lap in FP2 (which you can see in the video below), he too could reassure himself that there was more time to come.

    “It was more like a rally driving style than an F1 driving style,” said Bottas of his off-track excursion at Turn 18. “I’m not sure it was the fastest way around…

    2020 Russian GP FP2: Onboard for Bottas' fastest lap around Sochi

    “Everything seems pretty strong,” he added. “There’s still a lot of time on the table, and also set-up wise, I think Sector 1, Sector 2 feels really good actually, but Sector 3, the car’s still a little bit too nervous. If we can get it right, I’m sure there’s lap time.”

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    Meanwhile, with Bottas’ fastest lap in Free Practice 2 over a second quicker than Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo’s effort for P3 in the session, Hamilton admitted he’d been surprised by Mercedes’ advantage at Sochi, a track where they’ve won every race since 2014.

    “For us, it doesn’t really feel that great out there to be honest,” said Hamilton. “The grip is quite poor, there’s a lot of sliding around and so I’m a bit surprised to see that gap – it must feel even worse for those that are behind! But the track will grip up and things might close tomorrow.”