What the teams said – Friday in Russia

Special Contributor

Becky Hart


Bottas tends to go well at this track, and last year’s winner certainly picked up where he left off in Sochi. Top in both sessions, it was a clean, competent performance from the Finn, which sees him heading into the weekend as favourite for pole. As for Hamilton, he was a couple of tenths off in FP1 but narrowed the gap in the second session. But while things on track were improving, a 'brake magic' issue in the pit lane saw him overshoot his box, causing his front jack man to take avoiding action in what could have been a nasty incident.

READ MORE: ‘There’s more to come’ says Bottas after Friday practice clean sweep at Sochi

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:34.638, P2; FP2: 1:33.637, P2

"We had two good sessions today pace-wise. We ticked off as much as we could working through different setup items and had very clean runs with no issues so overall it was a good day. Valtteri and I went quite different with our setups to see which areas work best and we'll spend tonight studying the data to understand where we want the car for tomorrow and Sunday. It looks like it will be a lot of rain tomorrow, a big wet day, and we'll have to consider our setup with that in mind but keeping an eye on Sunday which is set to be dry."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:34.427, P1; FP2: 1:33.593, P1

"If you look at the timings and based on my own feeling in the car, it was a good day. From the first run, I had confidence in the car and the balance was very good so I could focus on my driving, looking for small gains. Tomorrow looks like it will be wet, so it'll be a completely different experience. The main thing is the car feels good on the long runs so that's encouraging for Sunday which should be dry. I really find my flow on this track and I enjoy it - when the car works well here, it's great fun to drive."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"We had a pretty good balance to start with today and were able to put in decent times on all tyre compounds. We've often struggled on the Soft tyre this year but today it seemed to work well. Our long run performance was OK, but we've not got the balance quite right so there's a bit of work to do there overnight. The forecast looks very wet for tomorrow, especially in the morning but we're expecting dry conditions for the race. That's going to give us an interesting compromise to deal with, finding a setup that works well in a wet qualifying but also has good long run pace in the dry. Overall though a reasonable start to the weekend."

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

The team have opted to fit Verstappen with a new Power Unit for this weekend, meaning the Dutchman will start from the back of the field for the race. It was a sensible decision as he already had a grid penalty, and as such Verstappen spent most of Friday focussed on race pace and set up. As for Perez, he is another driver with a good record here who normally excels at the 90-degree corners that Sochi possesses. But it was a slow Friday for him as he wound up on the fringes of the top 10 in both sessions.

READ MORE: Grid penalty-hit Verstappen explains why Red Bull chose to take new engine at Sochi

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.654, P3; FP2: 1:34.621, P6

“We thought it would be best to take the engine penalty here in Russia, we took everything into account before making the decision and we of course considered the weather for tomorrow. We had to take the penalty at some point so if we didn’t take it here, we would have taken it somewhere else. As for the set up, we are trying to make the best possible race car for this weekend despite starting from the back of the grid. I hope it’s going to work out and we will try to make the best of it during the race on Sunday, for now let’s wait and see what the weather will be like tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:36.188, P9; FP2: 1:34.938, P11

“I think we have some good information going into qualifying tomorrow, when there won’t be much running due to the rain, so today was probably the last chance we have to test the dry conditions before qualifying. I think there is potential in the car for this weekend, we just have to make sure we get it right. I think my first and second sector looked good but there are some areas to improve in the third sector. There are some set up changes we might need to make to the car to suit the weather conditions come qualifying but there are still a lot of interesting things to be analysed later on this evening. With Max starting from the back, it is going to be a bit of a challenge as a Team and obviously Mercedes are very strong around here but hopefully we are able to put some pressure on them and qualify very close to them, that would be ideal.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


Leclerc had one hairy moment out of Turn 8, half-spinning and coming perilously close to the barriers. But other than that, he was another driver to focus on race set up after taking on a new PU and thus starting from the back on Sunday regardless of qualifying. Sainz ran a more standard Friday programme, but given his wet weather pedigree, will be one driver happy to wake up and see rain tomorrow morning.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:35.117, P4; FP2: 1:34.925, P10

"We ran different programmes across our two cars today and my focus was on race simulation rather than on qualifying pace as I will start from the back of the grid on Sunday. The track evolution was quite significant over the course of the day. It started out being very slippery this morning and then improved with every run. Graining was not an issue, which was positive. In terms of driving experience, I enjoyed the last sector the most."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.811, P7; FP2: 1:34.678, P7

"A positive Friday for us in general, mainly coming from a decent balance right from the beginning and the car performing a bit better on this kind of track. There’s still a lot of work to do on the long run side as it looks like there’s some graining on the front tyres. Hopefully we can find a way to work around it for tomorrow, although we are expecting rain and things can change quickly. We’ll see."

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


Gasly had an interesting day. He was quick in both sessions, and only two-and-a half-tenths off Bottas’ leading marker in FP2. But while those lap times were a confidence-boost, he did blot his copybook by running wide late on and hitting the sausage kerbs, which meant he limped back to the pits minus his front wing. As for Tsunoda, he complained that the car was behaving erratically and will need to find something special if he is to get on the pace of his team mate tomorrow.

READ MORE: Third-quickest Gasly says car ‘harder than usual’ to drive after losing front wing in FP2

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:35.794, P6; FP2: 1:33.845, P3

“It’s been a positive day in terms of performance, this car seems to be working well here so far and it’s a good start going into the weekend. Whilst the performance is there, I’m not 100% comfortable with the balance inside the car yet so we’ve got a few things that we can take away and improve tonight. We know both Charles and Max are taking penalties for the race, so there are definitely some opportunities for us this weekend. Our main focus though is on our own package and maximising what we can do to help in our tight midfield battle.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:37.794, P16; FP2: 1:35.954, P18

“I’ve struggled with the general grip here so far in Sochi, but I’ve managed to gain important mileage in the car today, particularly for Sunday, as we think the race may be sunny. We know the performance is there in the car so I just need to go away tonight, look at the data and see how I can improve for tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather, so we just need to be as prepared as possible going into FP3 and qualifying.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“Overall, it’s been a mixed day across the two sides of the garage. Pierre had a strong day, we did some set up work in FP1 and learnt about the requirements of this track, in terms of the balance in the colder temperatures. We didn’t have a perfect car during the first session, so we did a lot of fine-tuning before heading out again in the afternoon, which has proved to be a step in the right direction. Yuki wasn’t quite as confident in the car and hasn’t been able to extract the same lap times, so we need to do some work tonight to really understand what to do to make him feel more comfortable in the car and extract its potential. The forecast for tomorrow is looking to be a complete wash-out, which likely means we’ll be using the wets during FP3, hence we used an additional set of softs today to ensure we had all the relevant data for the race on Sunday, when we expect it will be dry again.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Yuki Tsunoda of Scuderia AlphaTauri and Japan during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


McLaren normally keep their true pace under wraps on Fridays, but given the weather situation, did unleash Norris in FP2 who rocketed up the leaderboard. That was the good news – the bad was that the youngster locked up the rears at the end of FP1 and managed to connect with the barriers as he returned to the pits. As for Ricciardo, he missed some running at the start of FP2 thanks to a PU change back to a used unit. But once out on track, his pace mysteriously deserted him and the Aussie wound up well down the order.

READ MORE: Ricciardo confident McLaren can fix FP2 power unit fault as he laments ‘messy’ Friday in Sochi

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:36.877, P14; FP2: 1:35.630, P17

“This morning, we struggled quite a bit to get comfortable and there wasn’t that much pace. We made some changes with swapping the PU for FP2, but then we had a delay getting out, and then we had yellows, red flags and then people around us on high fuel. It was a bit of a lost session really, so we have some homework tonight. Fortunately, Lando looked more comfortable and quicker in FP2, so we’ll try to learn from that. For us, not the most inspiring day, but still a lot we can work on to improve ahead of qualifying.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:35.959, P8; FP2: 1:34.154, P4

“Today was a bit up and down – we struggled quite a bit in P1, but we made quite a few changes on the car for the second session which improved things. That progress has made me feel a bit more confident in the car this afternoon and given us a more positive feeling going into tomorrow.

“Some of our strengths from Monza aren’t as obvious at this track, and there’s more of the types of corners here where we’re not as strong. But it can still feel relatively good, it just doesn’t always translate into actual lap-time. We’re not as competitive as we were in Monza, but we still have a decent feeling and we can still be competitive compared to the teams we’re really racing against. There are a lot of things to take into account for tomorrow with the weather forecast, so there’s a lot to think about overnight to prepare ourselves for tomorrow.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“Weather conditions in Sochi are unsettled this week. We had rain yesterday and there’s an expectation of rain tomorrow, but today the sessions were dry, and we could work through our dry run-plan. We focused our efforts on understanding the tyres and set-up, preparing the car for both single-lap performance and for the race, as usual. On Daniel’s side of the garage we had a little disruption, discovering an issue at the end of FP1. We swapped the PU over the break between P1 and P2, lost a little bit of running time and as a result were doing our new Soft run in P2 in difficult traffic conditions. That’s reflected in the classification – but we know there’s quite a lot more to come.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Stroll wasn’t totally happy with his car set up in the first session, and didn’t fare much better in the afternoon. Vettel though looked to have pace from the off and came home inside the top 10 in both sessions. Don’t rule out the Canadian just yet though – should qualifying run in the wet, he will be one of the favourites to cause an upset out there.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:35.781, P5; FP2: 1:34.837, P9

“It was a productive day of running: we covered a good number of laps and found a decent balance with the car. That is positive because it can be tricky to find the flow in Sochi, so I think we have a good starting point. But it looks like it will rain tomorrow. That could make for an interesting qualifying session and, because it will mix up the field, it could lead to some opportunities for us, especially with some other drivers taking grid penalties already this weekend. Sunday is looking drier, so today’s positive work is still important. We will make sure we are well prepared tonight and then see what tomorrow brings.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:36.522, P12; FP2: 1:35.334, P15

“It is good to be back on track. We have learned quite a bit today and I think there is more to come from me and the car. The forecast is suggesting that rain is going to be a factor tomorrow, which could change the course of the weekend. Obviously, it is a very different experience to drive in the wet and we have never experienced those sorts of conditions in Sochi before. That would be an exciting challenge and we will be prepared for the possibility tomorrow. We will go away and review what we have learned today and then see what the weather has in store for FP3 and qualifying.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


It was a mixed day for Alpine, with both drivers steadily working through their run programmes in the first session. Roll on FP2, and they started to think about pure one-lap pace with Ocon winding up an impressive fifth and Alonso not too much further back. With Leclerc and Verstappen set to start at the back, this is a great opportunity for the team to get both cars back into the top 10 in qualifying after dropping down the order in Monza.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:36.236, P11; FP2: 1:34.402, P5

“It’s good to be back in Sochi as it’s a track that I’ve always enjoyed racing at. It’s high grip, especially in comparison to Monza last time out. We have the Softest tyres on the range here, so that gives us some things to try and understand. It’s been a very busy day for us, busier than a usual Friday, with half an eye on the weather tomorrow and we aimed to be as productive as possible. Things could be interesting tomorrow, so optimising today was important. We completed quite a few runs - low fuel and high fuel - and we have a good idea on what we can do on car set-up. Let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings but so far, I’m pleased with our progress.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:36.225, P10; FP2: 1:34.762, P8

“It was a reasonable day for us today. We don’t know how useful some of the data will be because of the potential rain forecasted for tomorrow, but the car seems to behave okay here. We set up a few different things in FP2 and we found a few benefits, so I am happy with that. We could have achieved a better lap time without the red flag for Antonio (Giovinazzi), but it’s only Friday, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“We had to try and do as much work as possible today knowing that tomorrow’s weather looks very unsettled. We’ve had a positive day with our usual combination of long runs and short runs with different tyre compounds. We collected a lot of good information and had some decent lap times. At the moment it looks like the weather may be dry on Sunday so our relative pace looks positive for the race; let’s see what tomorrow brings as it looks like we will have to deal with some very significant rain.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen’s return to the Alfa cockpit after two races out wasn’t totally smooth sailing, as he complained about something in his eye. He did at least bring his car back in one piece which is more than can be said for Giovinazzi. The Italian took too much kerb on the exit of Turn 8, spinning into the barriers and out of the session in FP2. He did try to limp home but was asked to stop out on track after shedding a considerable amount of carbon fibre en-route.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:36.952, P15; FP2: 1:35.052, P12

“It was an okay day to get back to the car. It didn’t feel much different than any other times, and the job we did wasn’t too bad. Things ran smoothly, the conditions were okay so we were able to do our work. First impressions are okay but when it really matters is tomorrow and Sunday. The feeling with the car is okay, but we’ll need to see what happens in qualifying to see where we stack up against the others.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.795, P13; FP2: 1:35.178, P14

“The sessions were going pretty well until the incident. FP1 wasn’t too bad and FP2 was an improvement, overall a good start of the weekend. The wind was rather strong, I got a bit of understeer outside the corner, touched the astroturf on the exit and lost the rear. Tomorrow is another day, we need to see what the weather is going to be like and continue our work.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Alfa Romeo Racing walks in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Russell is another driver who loves the wet, with his second place starting slot in Spa recent in the memory so tomorrow’s forecast should suit the Briton. As for Latifi, he had a quiet but efficient Friday. Although he started ahead of his team mate at Monza thanks to a superior Sprint performance, he is still yet to beat Russell over one lap in qualifying so will be going all out to change that tomorrow.

HIGHLIGHTS: See all the key moments from second practice at Sochi

George Russell – FP1: 1:38.013, P17; FP2: 1:35.094, P13

"It was an interesting day today. The car was feeling good, but the pace wasn’t quite as good as the car was feeling. We will go away and analyse why that was overnight. That positive feeling definitely helped us on the high-fuel pace though, and hopefully that will benefit us if it is dry on Sunday. Tomorrow looks like it could be a washout, but fingers crossed that we get some running in at some point. Our performance at Spa definitely gives us added confidence if it is a wet qualifying, but it is a very different style of track and different conditions here in Sochi so we will need to put in the hard work to achieve a good result. If it is going to be dry on Sunday, it will be interesting as the circuit will be very green after the rain and that will make it tricky, so it is not going to be a straightforward weekend."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:38.155, P18; FP2: 1:35.411, P16

"Today was a fairly tricky day of running, but we made some good improvements from one session to the next which is important. I still feel that we have some things that we can analyse tonight to try and get the car in a better window, and I’ll be looking at the changes I can make to my driving style to find some more lap time. Whilst tomorrow’s weather conditions might mean that a lot of today’s running may not be so relevant, everyone will be in the same position and what we’ve learnt today becomes especially valuable if it’s drier on Sunday."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"We have had a useful and productive day. Nicholas had some issues with his brakes this morning, but this was fixed for FP2. The car is working well here and although there is definitely some scope for improvement, we are happy with our start to the weekend.

"Given the weather forecast for tomorrow, it is unclear quite how the weekend will play out. However, we are happy with the work that we have done so far, and we are ready to face any eventuality. Both drivers are comfortable with their cars and so even if we don’t get much done in FP3 due to the rain, we are happy to go straight into both qualifying and the race."

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Mazepin had a good day at his home race, beating his team mate home in both sessions and by a decent margin. As for Schumacher, despite knowing this track and winning here last season in F2, he struggled for pace today. He might be hoping that a change in the conditions offers up a change in fortunes tomorrow.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:38.977, P20; FP2: 1:36.230, P20

“Overall, I felt quite comfortable. This track isn’t really driven over the year and that meant we had a very green track to start off with. I think in general we did some good things on the car, it felt comfortable early on, especially in FP2. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish my lap on the second set but we know that we have it in our pocket. Overall, it’s more about getting to know the car better on every track, especially here where I have good memories from F2, to convert that into a good run in F1 is positive. Now, it’s just a matter of putting everything together.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:38.586, P19; FP2: 1:36.099, P19

“I love Sochi and I think Sochi loves me because when we arrived here yesterday, I looked at the weather and it was saying it wasn’t going to be very good, but there is nothing like Sochi sun. Especially with that track, it’s fast and then it’s flowing, during the whole lap it’s very enjoyable to drive. I wasn’t quite sure what the car was going to feel like, given the balance can be different, but the balance was very similar to what it was like last year in Sochi and although we’re just missing overall downforce and lack pace, I think we’re close to extracting what we had to. We completed our run plan for today and let’s see what to expect tomorrow – I don’t think we’re going to get the sunshine like we had today.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“A pretty good day today with no big issues and both drivers and the team doing a good job over the two sessions. We went out early in FP2 to try and get a lap in, should there be an issue with qualifying tomorrow. Apparently, it will be raining, but we don’t know for sure, so we’ll deal with that one tomorrow. We made sure today to get a lap in and everybody else did, so we ended up where we normally end up but all in all, a good day at the office.”

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Mick Schumacher of Germany and Haas F1 runs in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 24, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"Tomorrow's expected weather influenced free practice today, with the drivers concentrating more on collecting plenty of data over all three compounds as well as setting a lap time just in case FP2 has an influence on the grid positions for the race, with a strong chance that tomorrow will see wet conditions all day. The circuit actually offered quite good grip and, as expected, plenty of track evolution, although the rain tomorrow is likely to reset the asphalt, which adds to the question marks. Under these circumstances, the red flag in FP2 was unfortunate, with the teams likely to head into Sunday's race with a distinct lack of dry running."

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