A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom...
Ferrari had a pretty good day, all told, with both drivers able to keep their tyres in their operating windows and the balance and traction of the SF70H making their task seem easier than most other drivers. Of course they mumbled the usual caveats about it only being a Friday and Vettel even suggested that Mercedes were sandbagging. Were that the case, they seemed to have the sandbags attached to each end of the W08 EQ Power. Don’t be fooled; they are looking very strong again this weekend, with the relatively minor negative of running the third turbochargers on both cars. If they have to exceed four during the season, of course, 10 grid place penalties will apply.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:37.230, P5; FP2: 1:34.120, P1
“I think we improved so I can be reasonably happy but not entirely. We had a tough start this morning and it took a while to increase speed. I am sure we can still do more. I think this is a circuit where you need to feel confident. There’s a lot of corners that look all the same on paper, they feel similar in the car, but then it’s quite tricky to get everything right. I wish they planted more trees next to the track so that you could have more references! But it’s tricky and that’s why you need to get into the rhythm. I struggled a bit in the morning but I think we understood what we need. We always fight for the pole position, that’s, for sure but on paper this track looks like a Mercedes one. They didn’t show everything today and didn’t get their lap together. So we’ll see”.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:36.074, P1; FP2: 1:34.383, P2
“It’s been a nice Friday, things ran smoothly and we had no issues. I’m happy with the car, I had a nice feeling straight away and it’s always more fun when it goes like that. So far so good; but it’s only Friday and we have no idea what the others are doing, but we started well and I’m quite happy. We’ll try to make a good day tomorrow and then we’ll go from there”.
Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF70-H at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Mercedes looked very good on the softs in FP1, but clearly struggled on the two softer compounds in FP2. Both drivers said they had tough days, getting the balance right and also getting the tyres switched on, and the six- to seven-tenths gap to Ferrari was as big an advantage as Mercedes themselves have enjoyed in the past three years. They are pinning their hopes for qualifying on fixing what Toto Wolff called a “couple of no brainers”, and winding up the engine for the last couple of tenths in final qualifying, but it remains to be seen whether they can match Ferrari’s impressive race pace.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:36.681, P3; FP2: 1:34.829, P4
“Bit of a difficult day for us. We managed to complete everything that we needed to do on our runs, but in terms of the balance of the car, the Ferrari seemed very, very fast on the long runs, so we need to work out how we can improve our pace. But there's still everything to play for. The tyres feel very peaky, so it's easy to drop out of the window of performance. But when they're working they seem to be good.”
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:36.119, P2; FP2: 1:34.790, P3
“It's been an interesting day. It's a very different situation here with the asphalt and the temperatures compared to what we experienced in Bahrain. We were learning about the tyres on long runs and short runs and it seems like over one lap we still have work to do to get the maximum out of the UltraSoft tyre - that's our focus tonight. But we can't forget how important the race is. We have started the weekend in the right way. The car feels good and the balance is there. A good start but we definitely need to work hard to find some lap time for qualifying.”
James Allison, Technical Director
“We enjoyed plenty of useful running with both drivers having untroubled sessions - completing our planned programme. But it's pretty clear from both the long run pace and the set-up runs that we have got a bit of work to do to be on equal terms with Ferrari. As normal we will set about cutting that gap overnight and hopefully we will have a car that is able to get the job done on Saturday and Sunday. There are clear avenues that we need to work on to make sure we are properly competitive tomorrow. If we get that right it'll be close just as it has been all year.”
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 Hybrid at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
The gap between Red Bull and the top two teams was like a chasm that opened up again here, after recent apparent improvements. Like Mercedes, Red Bull have a lot of set-up stuff to work through tonight in search of grip and balance - and a power loss in Verstappen’s TAG motor to investigate. As such, the team have already abandoned realistic hopes of a podium finish.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:37.290, P6; FP2: 1:35.910, P6
“We had some good signs throughout the day while we experienced some drops among the peaks. I was pretty happy with the car on the supersoft tyre but we didn’t find as much time as the others on the ultrasoft so that’s a tyre we need to work on a bit. The balance with the supersoft was good so I think if we can manage to get the same feeling with the ultrasoft tomorrow then we should be looking ok. This afternoon it was also easier to get the tyres up to temperature so I think if the weather stays the same tomorrow that should not be too much of an issue. People keep asking about the upgrades coming in Barcelona but first we need to maximise what we have with the current car and package here this weekend. We can definitely make improvements for tomorrow but as far as positions go in qualifying we are still behind Mercedes and Ferrari, so I don’t think the picture will change too much between the top teams and I would say Ferrari look the best after today’s running.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:37.174, P4; FP2: 1:35.540, P5
“We ended up stopping sooner than planned due to a problem with the fuel pressure. It was a bit of a shame as it prevented us doing a long run but luckily Daniel did one so we at least have some data to look into for Sunday. This track is not one of our favourites, we knew coming here it was going to be a tough weekend so we will just try to make the best of it. The gap to Mercedes and Ferrari looks bigger here because of the long straight; and we are down on power and downforce which makes not only the straights but also the corners tricky. I think qualifying will be interesting due to the challenge of warming the tyres up, and it’s the same for everyone so putting in one perfect lap won’t be easy. Realistically fifth and sixth is our aim for Sunday.”
The car of Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing RB13 is recovered in FP2 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Perez and Ocon were very well matched in FP2, and in the hunt within the very tight midfield. Ocon caused a brief red flag in FP1 when his car lost its engine cover and blew debris on to the track, but overall another solid day for the team, who are targeting Q3 with both cars in qualifying.
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:37.457, P7; FP2: 1:36.600, P10
“Finding the balance around this track is not easy, but I think we’re in a good place and I felt happy in the car. We completed a lot of laps using all the tyre compounds and there’s a lot of data to analyse, but I am confident we can be competitive tomorrow. It’s going to be an exciting battle in the midfield and I believe we will be strong.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:38.065, P10; FP2: 1:36.654, P11
“A pretty solid day overall. I feel we’ve got to a point where we understand how the car is working around this track and we know where we can make improvements. I felt very confident with the car all day, but especially in the second session, and I was able to get the tyres to work, which is not easy on a track like this. There’s still a lot to discuss tonight, but I am satisfied with what we’ve achieved today and I hope the rest of the weekend continues like this.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy team principal
“Both drivers were happy with the baseline set-up of the car from the start of the day, which meant we could concentrate largely on fine-tuning. This circuit is very different from Bahrain, so we’ve had to give a lot of attention to understanding how the three tyre compounds work around here. We feel we understand our car better and better as the season progresses, which is crucial as the margins in the midfield are very small. The target tomorrow is Q3 with both cars.”
Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India VJM10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Once again Hulkenberg showed that the Renault RS17 is improving, with the eighth fastest time in FP2, while Palmer wasn’t far off his team mate. Poor Sirotkin’s FP1 session ended after two untimed laps when his car shut itself down at Turn 2 – a real shame for the Russian in a rare outing on home soil.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP2: 1:36.329, P8
“It was a pretty straightforward FP2 for me after a short FP1 with the headset on whilst Sergey was in the car. We were up to speed pretty quickly and I don’t think there’s anything to fear from the weekend ahead. We completed a decent amount of laps so there is enough info to digest in the quest to making us faster tomorrow and on race day.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:39.158, P15; FP2: 1:36.771, P13
“The car felt pretty good straight out of the box and I was able to push it without any particular issues. The front end felt good and there was good traction too, so I think we’ve made some nice progress with understanding the car and also with the new parts we’ve added. FP2 ended a little early for me, but I’m feeling positive for the rest of the weekend.”
Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: No time, P20
“It was a short run for me in FP1, but that’s motor sport and it’s better to have an issue with the car in practice than in qualifying or the race. There’s not much I can say about today other than I was happy with the car at the Bahrain test and I was fully prepared to deliver everything required today. I’m next out in Spain so that’s where my focus now lies.”
Nick Chester, Technical Director:
“We got some good mileage on our new aero package today despite a tricky morning for Sergey which saw his session cut short after a hydraulic problem which then damaged the gearbox. It’s disappointing as we know he would have done a good job. Jo had a useful morning looking at the aero package and doing some set up work. This afternoon, we focused on completing our qualifying and long runs with both Jo and Nico. So far our short run pace looks reasonably good; we just need to analyse the race pace.”
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Not a bad day for Massa, who was on it throughout and not too unhappy with what he achieved with his FW40. Stroll looked very strong in the morning as he all but matched him, but things didn’t come together for the Canadian in FP2.
Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:37.900, P8; FP2: 1:36.261, P7
“It was a good day for us. The car felt good on track, in the morning and the afternoon, on short runs and long runs, on old tyres and new tyres. So I would say I am quite happy with the balance and the way the tyres are working, and the degradation is very low, much lower than other tracks and was quite good for our long run. I was happy with the day. I really hope we can have a strong weekend, but we will see.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:37.944, P9; FP2: 1:37.747, P19
“It is a bit strange here as it is not one timed lap and then the tyre goes away, it builds up a lot. So we need to figure out how to deliver the lap time when the tyre is at its best. There is still improvement to come, and that is generally from my side, as it is my first time here and I am just getting the car set up the way I want. And I didn't use the ultra softs as I am saving them for tomorrow. That will give me a much better feeling and I will try to get in some good runs. We have not decided our strategy for the race yet, but it is low grip here and the degradation doesn't look high, so we will have to see what approach is best.”
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
“It’s been a sunny Friday at the Sochi Autodrom and a good day on both sides of the garage as we had no problems on either car and completed our planned programmes. Felipe ran a more conventional programme, using all three tyre compounds on both high and low fuel, as well as conducting some aerodynamic experiments. For Lance, the focus was on learning the circuit as this is a track he hasn’t driven before, and he made good progress through the day. We chose to run two sets of super soft tyres with him in FP2, giving him a more consistent tyre with one less variable. We have lots of interesting data in terms of tyre performance and endurance. There is still a lot of work to do tonight. We look forward to competing strongly tomorrow.”
Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW40 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Both drivers said there was no grip as they struggled to get their tyres in their operating window. More head scratching will go on overnight on set-up, with short run pace a particular concern.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:38.496, P11; FP2: 1:37.300, P17
“A difficult start to the weekend… there was just no grip out there today! Unfortunately, the car is lacking a lot of speed, so we need to analyse and understand why this is happening and hopefully improve it for tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:38.976, P14; FP2: 1:37.083, P15
“I think we’ve learned a lot out there today, but it’s been a challenging Friday - the track is very slippery and it’s tricky to get the tyres up to temperature. This makes our life fairly difficult during the out laps and the push laps; even if the sun is out and it’s quite a warm day, it’s proving to be tough. We now need to keep working and get ready for tomorrow, as we’re not exactly where we’d like to be.”
Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Today has provided plenty of challenges and clearly we are not where we want to be, especially with regards to short run performance. In terms of set-up work conducted today, we adapted the run programmes to investigate solutions to the balance issues we faced and in terms of finding a long run balance, we made some progress. However, short run performance is not yet where we expect it to be. Our long runs on the supersoft and ultrasoft tyre yielded some useful data which should provide options for the race strategy. We will be working very hard tonight to address the balance issues we have in order to extract the performance from the package tomorrow and maximise our opportunities in the race.”
Carlos Sainz jr (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Sauber were another team to complain of, yep, you guessed it, balance and grip problems, finding it particularly frustrating as they had made some decent progress on set-up in the Bahrain test. Plenty of work ahead...
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:40.079, P19; FP2: 1:37.819, P20
“It was not the best Friday for us. We found some improvements during the test days in Bahrain, but we could not get them to work here as we wanted. The track conditions are quite different with lower temperatures than Bahrain. All in all FP1 was not satisfying, then in FP2 things were getting better. We have plenty of work to do for the rest of the weekend. We need to understand in which areas we can improve, so that we can find more lap time.”
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:39.731, P18; FP2: 1:37.441, P18
“It is good to be back in the car again. Although we had difficulties with the balance of the car, especially with regard to the rear and the tyres - the temperatures here in Sochi are not comparable to the test days in Bahrain. Now we need to analyse the collected data in order to make improvements for tomorrow. So far we are not yet where we want to be.”
Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber C36 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
The team had finally fitted Carbon Industrie brakes to both VF-17s, and spent most of FP1 fine-tuning the set-ups, and then FP2 trying to solve various teething issues as they arose. Balance and grip were also in short supply for Grosjean, but Magnussen was happier with his day's work.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:39.533, P16; FP2: 1:37.039, P14
“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance. We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them. Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well - very low grip on low fuel and high fuel. Hopefully, we can find some performance and get closer to where Kevin is and get back in the top-10 tomorrow.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:38.747, P9; FP2: 1:36.506, P9
“I’m quite happy. We got through the day without any problems on the car. We got the whole program done, so that’s very satisfying. The early feeling is good with the car. We need to look at a few issues on the balance, normal stuff like that, but the baseline is quite good. The balance of the track is evolving in each session, but the balance in the car is similar, so that’s a good sign. We’ll keep working and try and iron out the small balance issues that we have. As I said, the baseline is good in the car, so it’s just details we need to work on.”
Guenther Steiner, Team principal
“It was a busy day today. We’re obviously coming to a track which isn’t used a lot. It still has low grip levels, but in the morning every lap went quicker as everybody’s cleaning the track up and going faster and faster. We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data. I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue. All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”
Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas VF-17 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Alonso pushed as hard as he could on his way to 12th fastest time in FP2. Vandoorne, meanwhile, complained of loss of power as FP1 progressed, and that required fitment of his fifth turbocharger of the year and fifth MGU-H for FP2. This was a massive disappointment after the brief spell of speed a reliability the MCL32 showed in the Bahrain test, and means he has 15 grid places worth of penalties on Sunday. As if that wasn’t tough enough, he also had a slow puncture on his best ultrasoft run, due to a faulty sensor problem.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:38.813, P13; FP2: 1:36.765, P12
“This is something of a power circuit, so, with our car in basically the same configuration as we had in Bahrain, we’re not expecting to make much of a step forward this weekend. I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend in terms of what we can achieve on what will be a tough track for us.
“We’ve been testing the tyres throughout the sessions – they seem to last for a very long time and be very consistent, so it’s likely that we could have a one-stop race, as predicted. Also, the tyres seem to take some time to fully warm up, so it doesn’t look like the first lap we do in qualifying will necessarily be the fastest – we’ll have to do multiple laps. That’s the same for everyone, but we need to find a way to speed up the warm-up.
“Friday’s homework is done, let’s see what we can learn tomorrow.”
Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:39.541, P17; FP2: 1:37.125, P16
“We had some engine problems again in FP1 – and that means we get a 15-place grid penalty this weekend. Still, it was really only a matter of time before we got a penalty since the start of the season has been tough for us.
“Unfortunately, today was a tough day but you have to try your best to move on from it. There’s nothing much we can do about the situation we’re in at the moment. Still, let’s hope some improvements will come soon.
“FP2 wasn’t a 100 per cent problem-free session, but at least we were able to get some more laps under our belts. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a smoother day.”
Eric Boullier, Racing director
“It was obviously disappointing to see Stoffel receive a 15-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after fitting his fifth MGU-K and turbo-charger inbetween FP1 and FP2. That said, I must commend the mechanics for doing an absolutely fantastic job at effecting the change so efficiently – for Stoffel to be able to resume running just 10 minutes into FP2 was extremely impressive. “Apart from the change to the PU elements, we had a productive day: we were able to successfully trial some new components, and we feel they’re delivering as we expected. “Obviously, Sunday is going to be tough – especially for Stoffel – but we’re staying focused on the job in hand and will push for improved performance in the race.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Today was a day of mixed fortunes. Fernando and Stoffel both finished the day without having the MGU-H issues we suffered in Bahrain – however, we detected an issue with Stoffel's PU at the end of FP1 which, while not a fundamental issue, we decided to change it order to get him back out on track as quickly as possible.
“The team did an absolutely incredible job, and Stoffel was back out on track in FP2 at almost exactly the same time as Fernando, so his running was barely compromised. I want to thank all the team members for their hard work.
“Unfortunately, this also means that Stoffel will start the race with grid penalties on Sunday. However, I am positive he will perform at his best in both qualifying and the race.
“Fernando ended the day without any troubles and we tested various settings with all types of tyres and some aero parts. We were able to continue our preparations for tomorrow’s qualifying with him and will continue our hard work and hope that both drivers have a good race on Sunday.”
Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MCL32 at Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Russian Grand Prix, Practice, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, Friday 28 April 2017. © Sutton Motorsport Images
Mario Isola, Head of car racing
“There’s a gap of around a second between each compound, which is about the target we established at the beginning of the year. Supersoft and ultrasoft are the tyres that we expect to feature in qualifying and the race here. Although the track is slightly rougher than it was last year, as a result of normal asphalt evolution, it’s still very smooth and slippery, which keeps degradation low. Consequently we can expect a relatively straightforward one-stop race on Sunday, starting on ultrasoft and moving onto supersoft.”