RACE DEBRIEF

    The drivers and teams report back on Friday practice at the Formula 1 2018 VTB Russian Grand Prix...

    Mercedes

    Mercedes only fitted the hypersoft tyres in second practice, but once they did they looked very quick, with Hamilton topping the leaderboard by two-tenths from his team mate. The Silver Arrows have won every edition of this race at Sochi – will they continue that streak here this weekend? If they do, Hamilton’s title bid will be looking even more rosy...

    Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:34.818, P3; FP2: 1:33.385, P1

    "Sochi has been one of the weaker circuits for me in the past, particularly last year. So I've done a lot of work to understand the balance and see where I can improve to try and rectify this - today has been good in that sense. From every race we're learning more and more and particularly the last few races have helped us to really gauge which foot we need to start on for the weekend. We've brought more upgrades this weekend; there's so much work going on at home and it's just really encouraging when you come to a race and you get an upgrade, knowing that this late in the season we're also already working on next year's car - it motivates me to get the best out of everything. It's been a good day for us, so let's hope that it continues tomorrow."

    Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:34.999, P4; FP2: 1:33.584, P2

    "It was a good day for us; on paper it looks like we should be competitive, but it's only Friday. The initial feeling of the car was good; however, there's still work to do. It's so difficult to get a perfect set-up for each corner on this track, because the balance is so different throughout the lap. We brought some aerodynamic updates to the car that worked well and added more grip; we'll see if that's going to be enough for the weekend. It seemed like Ferrari weren't really showing everything they have, so they will probably be stronger tomorrow. I think it's going to be very close, so we'll have to keep pushing."

    James Allison, Technical Director

    "It's been a pretty decent day where both cars looked strong on all the tyres we ran. The HyperSoft is once again a very good, fast tyre for a single lap, but it is less obvious here than it was in Singapore whether it will be so strong in the race. The long-runs went well, we looked competitive on them and the car generally behaved itself - so far, so good. We're looking forward to tomorrow and seeing how it all pans out once it starts to count."

    Ferrari

    Vettel topped FP1 on the hypersofts but crucially the Scuderia’s main rivals didn’t run the quickest compound. Come second practice, Ferrari seemed to lag behind their rivals, with Vettel spinning to boot in what was a slightly lacklustre showing.

    Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:34.488, P1; FP2: 1:33.928, P5

    “Some Fridays are good, some aren’t and this one hasn’t been great for us. We are not where we want to be yet and we’ve got some catching up to do. Today it was difficult to put the laps together, we went through the tyres too fast, especially the front left, and struggled a bit with both the fast laps and with fuel on board. There was also a lot of traffic and obviously this never helps. Now we have some work to do, as we need to find the reasons for that and come back stronger. However, I am positive as ever, as I think that tomorrow and on Sunday it will be better and we’ll find out the right things to apply. We want to put both cars on the front row tomorrow; we don’t know yet what will happen, but we’ll try to do our best as pole is the best place to start from”.

    Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:35.696, P7; FP2: 1:34.388, P6

    “Usually, on Friday, it is always tricky with the tyres; then the situation improves, the circuit cleans up and there’s more grip to be found. Today, the conditions we found were pretty much those we had expected. Normally, we don’t look too much into the lap times on Friday; we try many things and learn from it. For sure there’s some work to be done and there are things to improve, but this is normal. We’ll see what tomorrow brings in qualifying, when everybody is pushing to the maximum."

    Red Bull

    A mixed day for Red Bull – they seemed competitive on pace, with Verstappen in particular looking quick. Ricciardo missed some running in FP1 due to a floor change but returned to the fray in FP2. But with engine penalties looming and a back-of-the-grid start likely for both drivers, it will be an uphill battle come Sunday regardless of what speed they show in qualifying.

    Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:35.524, P5; FP2: 1:33.844, P4

    “The car felt good today and I really enjoyed driving. The circuit was actually good fun and we had pretty good pace. Because you don’t have any banking to give you extra grip on the corners, coming here with the Hypersoft gives you the grip you need, which made it more enjoyable. We got some traffic on the long runs this afternoon which gave us some feeling of how it will be in the race. It’s not the easiest track to overtake on, but we eventually got it done, so I think the race should be pretty entertaining. I’m happy to see there is some tyre degradation, if it’s an easy one-stop race it could be a bit predictable, so I’m hoping it could be a two-stop to make it more exciting. There isn’t much use in us doing the full qualifying tomorrow due to the penalties, but we will see how we go after FP3 and decide what to do then. We did plenty of running this afternoon and I know we have some good data from that. It will be important to do another long run in FP3 and prepare fully for the race. Russia has never been our strongest circuit but today there are some good signs.”

    Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.538, P2; FP2: 1:33.827, P3

    “It was a good Friday for us. It’s better than expected to be third in FP2. Straight away the car was working well, the long runs were good and we seem to be in good shape. Overall, the performance of the car is pleasing, we just need to understand the tyres better and work out the plan for the race. The information we received today was very good and we have the evening ahead to analyse everything. It was good to be in the mix with Ferrari and so far we can’t really complain. I don’t know what the strategy for qualifying tomorrow will be, but we probably won’t do the full session. I also expect Ferrari to find something overnight, so it’s going to be close tomorrow. Taking the penalties here is not so bad because it’s not our strongest track, so it’s best to get it out of the way. Starting from the back of the grid should be fun. I mean, moving forward and passing people is never easy, but we’ll see how far we can get.”

    Force India

    After their fireworks last time out, it was back to work as usual for Force India. Perez gave up his seat in FP1 to Latifi, and returned in second practice to finish an impressive ‘best of the rest’ with Ocon very close behind.

    Sergio Perez - FP2: 1:35.122, P7

    “I drove the car this afternoon and the pace looked competitive straight away. I think we can keep up the form we have shown since the summer break and the car feels good. The challenge is making sure we put everything together tomorrow because qualifying is so important here. We’ve seen how difficult it can be to overtake here, even with a quicker car. It’s hard to know how the track will evolve, but we have the data and information to make the right decisions tonight.”

    Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:37.206, P17

    “The team is still learning about the new upgrade package and I am glad I could help collect more data on those test items. I ran on two different tyre compounds – the ultrasoft and the hypersoft - and it was a straightforward session keeping to the run plan. It has been a couple of months since I drove the car and I could definitely feel the progress the team has made recently.”

    Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:35.663, P6; FP2: 1:35.147, P9

    “It has been a solid day ending both sessions in the top ten and I’m pleased with the work we’ve done. We are still testing new parts and it’s easier to do that here compared to Singapore, and the feelings are still positive. We are definitely moving in a good direction with the car. The rest of the time we focussed on the usual race preparation and learning how the different tyre compounds behave over the long runs. I think we have done most of our homework to be in good shape for the weekend.”

    Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

    “It was a typical Friday with important data collection and preparation for the weekend. We also worked through a comprehensive aero and mechanical test programme, and evaluated some new parts on the cars. Nicholas did a solid and impressive job for us this morning, and Esteban and Sergio were pretty happy with the car performance by the end of second practice. Now it’s all about working through the data and making sure we can be at the front of a very close midfield fight.”

    Renault

    It was an odd day for Renault – Hulkenberg was solidly in the top 10 in FP1 before losing running late on with technical issues. Markelov took Sainz’s seat and put in a tidy session, but come FP2 the team seemed to struggle for pace, with both drivers finishing outside the top 10. Can they find those missing tenths overnight?

    Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:36.274, P9; FP2: 1:35.568, P14

    “For me, a standard Friday. It’s a track I enjoy to drive so we spent the day working on things to get the car to go faster and be better balanced. We focused on the usual areas on the car here as we’ve a pretty good handle on how it behaves at this point in the season, so there were no surprises. We’ve plenty of info to work on for the rest of the weekend.”

    Artem Markelov – FP1: 1:37.183, P15

    “I was very excited to be in the car today and I’m pretty happy with everything. The team gave me good feedback and it was a great experience. I felt pretty confident after the second lap and an F1 car is where it feels like I should be! Thank you to Renault for this first experience in an official Grand Prix session.”

    Carlos Sainz - FP2: 1:35.341, P12

    “It’s definitely not ideal to miss a session like I did for FP1, but it’s also satisfying when you jump in the car for FP2 and there are no big surprises. It was a positive afternoon with the car and we managed to put a good amount of laps to prepare the car for qualifying and the race. We know we need to work on getting the most from the tyres since this will be key for us on Sunday. We have a good idea where we should be able to unlock a little more speed, so I look forward to tomorrow.”

    Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director

    “It was a straightforward day for us. Artem did a good job in the morning, getting quickly up to speed and ended the session not far off Nico’s pace after completing our programme for the session. The car performed as expected today, with the new floor delivering the expected performance gain. It does look like a very close midfield here so we’re looking to extract every ounce of performance for tomorrow and the race.”

    McLaren

    Alonso gave up his seat for Norris in first practice, with the youngster showing promising pace despite being left a tad red-faced after spinning on the dusty track. Come FP2 McLaren tried every trick in the book to extract some pace from their beleaguered MCL33 including the tow – which they have trialled with limited success at a number of races – but still wound up towards the back of the pack. Q2 would normally be a tall order, but with so many cars set for grid penalties, all is not lost just yet.

    Fernando Alonso - FP2: 1:36.074, P17

    “We knew coming here that this weekend could be quite difficult for us, so today’s performance was pretty much expected. That’s also why we opted to change the engine components here and take a penalty.

    “After Monza and Spa, this track has the highest power sensitivity of the whole season – and we know that’s usually a bad sign for our performance. It’s something we’re trying to understand, so we’ve been trying different set-ups to reduce the drag on the car.

    “Equally, we know we can’t perform miracles from one weekend to the next, so it’s going to be tough.

    “The degradation looks quite high, so we need to choose a good strategy for Sunday: qualifying isn’t too meaningful for us this weekend, but I still hope we’ll be in the points at the chequered flag.

    “A big thanks to Lando for waiting in the pit-lane for 20 minutes for the FP1 green light. I’ll have a better starting position on Sunday because of him – so I’m very happy with the job he did today!”

    Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:37.187, P16; FP2: 1:36.617, P18

    “We’ve been trying quite a few different things across both cars during practice today – trying to learn about the tyres, which are looking quite interesting. I think everybody has been surprised by just how big the degradation is on the longer runs. Typically, this has been a one-stop race without too much degradation, so the key today was to understand just how the tyres are working.

    “I think a two-stopper will still be tricky to make work as overtaking is so difficult around here. But let’s see how the degradation pans out – it’s usually a little less critical on a Sunday, so probably still a one-stop – but hopefully with the race being a bit more interesting…

    “Fernando and I experimented with the tow today: any lap-time we can gain is important, but it’s too early to say what we’ll do in qualifying tomorrow.”

    Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director

    “For this race weekend, we elected to change power unit components and take a penalty on Fernando’s car. One of the knock-ons of that was ensuring Fernando’s was the first car out of the pit-lane this morning – correspondingly becoming the first of several cars to earn a penalty, and consequently ensuring he will start ahead of the other penalty-affected drivers. Kudos to everyone in the garage this morning for accomplishing that small but important task.

    “The rest of the day’s running was primarily focused on race preparation: neither driver encountered any issues throughout the day, which was a positive.

    “In FP1 this morning, Lando enjoyed another a smooth and trouble-free session, very quickly getting down to business and immediately setting representative times.

    “Clearly, we’ve got some work to do to improve our competitiveness at a circuit that doesn’t seem to suit our car’s handling characteristics. We evaluated several new developments and set-up options and made a good start to our weekend.”

    Williams

    A day to forget for Williams. Stroll struggled throughout both sessions, calling his FW41 “undriveable” at one point, before suffering damage after hitting the kerbs hard. He also ran wide and will hope tomorrow brings better fortune. Sirotkin kept his sessions cleaner than his team mate, but struggled for pace and his prospects at his home Grand Prix don’t look too promising.

    Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1.37.225, P18; FP2: 1:36.861, P19

    "We got lots of productive mileage today which is important but performance-wise, there’s still a few things to squeeze out and maximise for tomorrow. There were some areas we found to be better than we first thought, so I think we look OK. There are a few more things to be optimised for tomorrow and you also don’t know what the weather’s going to do. I’m enjoying my home Grand Prix, it’s been very busy but at the same time I’ve got so much support. I didn’t expect so much. It’s been difficult and busy to handle so many activities, but I’ve got to use this positive energy from the fans and put it into performance on the track."

    Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:39.137, P20; FP2: 1:37.001, P20

    "We did plenty of consistent running, so it was just the usual Friday. At the end of FP1 I had a flat spot, so I just stopped because we had used all our planned tyres for that session. We look pretty slow, but tomorrow is another day so hopefully we can figure something out tonight and come back strong tomorrow."

    Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

    "We are back in Russia but it’s a different time of year to last season and so it is cooler as a result. We have the same tyre compounds as Singapore, so they are very soft compounds for Sochi. This morning we had a reasonably intensive aero programme looking at some front wing geometry options and collecting some rake data. We were also looking at some rear wing levels for this weekend. Both cars flat-spotted one of their sets of tyres so that held us back a little bit, but we still got plenty of good data which we will go through tonight. In FP2 we had a much more normal session preparing for qualifying and the race. Both cars were struggling to get the most out of the tyres, but I think we have found something which should help with that and in the end, Sergey finished the session with a good long run on the prime tyre."

    Haas

    Haas confirmed their line up for next year was remaining unchanged – and their drivers duly rewarded the team’s confidence in them by delivering clean sessions. Much like their midfield rivals Renault, they looked solid top 10 performers in first practice, before fading in FP2. Magnussen had a race to forget last time around in Singapore, so will be desperate to impress tomorrow.

    Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:36.816, P11; FP2: 1:35.911, P15

    "It went okay. It’s a track which is not that easy to drive and to find the limits. So, I’ve probably got a little bit of driving to find. The car, as well, needs to get in a better place. Generally, we’ve been working a lot on the hypersoft, seeing if it’s a potential race tire or not, just to see what strategy we go into qualifying with. The balance was actually alright – almost too easy to drive – and that’s never the sign of a really fast car. We’re going to work to make it a bit more challenging and faster over one lap. So, there’s some work to be done tonight. Tomorrow should be a much better day.”

    Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:36.196, P8; FP2: 1:35.331, P11

    “It’s not too bad today. We’re seeing that the front of the midfield is very close. It’s only a couple of tenths between P7 and P12. It’s an exciting battle up there, and it’s going to be tight in qualifying, as well. The hypersoft on high fuel, in race running, is very tricky. It wears out incredibly fast. It’s very fragile. I think there’s going to be a big advantage if you qualify in P11, just outside of Q3. With a free choice to start on softs, you’ll have a big advantage. The balance of the car was pretty good. There are a few things to fine tune, but our starting point was nice. We can work from there.”

    Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

    “It’s been a learning day today for us. We need to find the right downforce-drag level. I think we’re as competitive as we were in the last races. We need to make a few more changes for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get better.”

    Toro Rosso

    Toro Rosso had a positive day, though with engine penalties meaning a start from the back on Sunday, one-lap pace was largely irrelevent. Nonetheless, Gasly finished in the top 10 in second practice while Hartley wound up P16.

    Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:36.944, P12; FP2: 1:35.137, P8

    “It was a positive day overall, especially after the tough weekend in Singapore it was important to find some answers and try to get our pace back. That’s what we did today, plus we tested an upgraded engine which seems to work well, so I think it’s really encouraging for the few races left before the end of the season. Thank you to Honda for bringing this. We’ll take a penalty on Sunday and we will start from the back of the grid, so we will try to focus on the race more than Qualifying.”

    Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:37.944, P19; FP2: 1:36.024, P16

    “We knew we will start the race on Sunday at the back of the grid, so today’s main priority was on race pace and getting the car as quick as possible. It’s my first time discovering Sochi, it’s probably not my favourite track in the world but there was a lot to learn in the first few laps. We had a small issue on my car in FP1 which led to a floor change for FP2, the high-fuel long run looked very competitive. Even if in FP2 we didn’t get the most out of the Hypersoft, looking at the high-fuel and race pace it was a positive day.”

    Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

    “We knew coming to Sochi we would be taking PU penalties on both cars so we adapted our plans accordingly. We shifted the focus of the weekend more onto the long runs and race performance and less on Qualifying as we would be starting from the back of the grid. Since it was the first time the new PUs had run on track, they required some fine tuning and calibration work to extract the performance, but we completed that work and are looking in good shape at the end of FP2. So from the PU side everything is looking positive – thank you to Honda for this!

    "In FP1 we carried out several aerodynamic and tyre tests at the rear of the car to gather data to correlate the on track performance with our dyno results. We could complete these as very clean tests and obtained good answers so that was positive. The track started quite dusty and generally had low grip, so the balance in FP1 was quite nervous and we didn’t manage to get the perfect balance by the end of the session. The engineers trackside and in the operations room worked hard between FP1 and FP2, to look at setup changes to address the balance and grip issues – one of which was to switch to a spare floor for Brendon after observing issues with his prime floor from FP1 - these changes worked well in FP2.

    "Because of the penalties and our tyre choice for this event, we were able to use two Hypersofts for the short runs in FP2. Even though we hadn’t set the car up for Qualifying the performance was still there. We split the cars in terms of tyres for the long run; Brendon was looking very competitive on the Soft as the tyre looks quite robust. The Ultrasoft on the other hand is more fragile so that took some managing. Overall, we are in a good position with the package we have today and we will see what the rest of the weekend brings.”

    Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

    “We ran updated PUs on both cars today, and this involves the drivers taking grid penalties. Today, our work was focused on optimising settings and calibration on the updated PU, running on an actual track, fitted to the STR13. Overall, it was a positive day.”

    Pirelli

    Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

    “With the track always evolving so quickly in Sochi, it’s not easy to draw any firm conclusions on a Friday. However, we’re seeing that the lap times are getting dramatically faster throughout each session. The compounds also seem to be quite evenly spaced out in terms of performance, which is what we wanted to achieve with the ‘step’ between the nominations. It was important for the teams to find out as much about the hypersoft here as they could, to see how it could fit into a race strategy. Balancing the load between the front and rear tyres, given the quite different demands between the first and third sectors of this circuit, is likely to be a key to success in Russia”

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