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Friday analysis - Sochi gets the F1 seal of approval

10 Oct 2014

The layout of the new Sochi Autodrom was generally popular with the drivers as they completed their first two practice sessions at the circuit on Friday.

The weather played ball in both sessions, enabling everyone to get through their programmes, and there was a general surprise at the amount of grip for a first day. And even though Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo brought out the red flag with eight minutes to go in FP2 because of technical problems, only five minutes were lost. We take a team-by-team look at the early running in Russia…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 42.376s, P2/1m 39.630s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 42.311s, P1/1m 40.542s, P4

Hamilton was in tremendous form in the afternoon, and lapped eight-tenths faster than his closest rival. Rosberg tried what he described as a ‘creative’ set-up in that session, as an experiment that the team wanted to conduct, but said that it didn’t work.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 43.026s, P5/1m 40.494s, P2

Jenson Button, 1m 42.507s, P3/1m 40.718s, P6

McLaren had a great day, one of their best of the season, with Button third to the Mercedes in FP1 and Magnussen splitting them in FP2. Both drivers said they got reasonable balance and good grip early on, and that the track felt better to drive in reality than it had in the simulator.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 42.720s, P4/1m 40.504s, P3

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 43.212s, P8/1m 41.630s, P11

Ferrari had no specific problems and Alonso in particular was delighted with the level of grip, but Raikkonen again complained that he couldn’t get his car’s front-end to work the way he likes.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 43.542s, P10/1m 40.573s, P5

Felipe Massa, 1m 43.741s, P11/1m 40.731s, P7

Both drivers said they thought the track suited the FW36 and were generally happy with the balance and how things went, though Bottas had a problem in FP1 when his tyre warmers went wrong and overheated a set of hard tyres.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 43.164s, P7/1m 41.108s, P8

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 43.327s, P9/1m 41.531s, P10

Local hero Kvyat initially described his car’s behaviour as ‘lazy’ but was happier when it picked up grip as practice progressed. Both he and Vergne said they had got off to positive starts to the weekend.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 44.506s, P14/1m 41.396s, P9

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 43.821s, P12/1m 42.061s, P13

Red Bull struggled badly in both sessions and were way off by their super-high standards. Both drivers said they lacked top speed and grip, and that the track wasn’t made for the RB10. They may have to sacrifice something in qualifying tomorrow as a result by focusing on race set-up to enable them to make some form of attack on Sunday afternoon. Ricciardo brought out the red flag for five minutes at the end of FP2, when his car stopped after its out-of-mileage engine shut itself down.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 43.976s, P13/1m 41.677s, P12

Sergio Perez, 1m 43.129s, P6/1m 42.090s, P14

Force India were quite happy with a first day which, Hulkenberg said, ‘ticked all the boxes’. Unfortunately, however, he looks set for a five-place grid drop on Sunday thanks to an unscheduled gearbox change.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 45.190s, P18/1m 42.892s, P16

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 44.876s, P16/1m 42.905s, P17

Both drivers had busy days chasing set-up, but thought they were making progress by the end of practice.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 44.625s, P15/1m 41.233s, P15

Esteban Gutierrez (pm only), 1m 43.055s, P18

Sergey Sirotkin (am only), 1m 45.032s, P17

Sauber were happy with the job that Russian debutant Sirotkin did, and the intelligent manner in which he worked down to a time only four-tenths of a second off experienced team mate Sutil. The German and team mate Gutierrez said they liked the circuit, and were surprised by the amount of grip it offered.

Caterham

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 46.922s, P20/1m 44.135s, P19

Kamui Kobayashi (pm only), 1m 44.952s, P21

Roberto Merhi (am only), 1m 46.782s, P19

Ericsson and Merhi waited for track conditions to improve in FP1 and missed the first half hour, then the Swede had a minor energy management problem, but otherwise it was a positive day for the team.

Marussia

Max Chilton, 1m 47.284s, P21/1m 44.530s, P20

Marussia made the decision to run just one car after a lot of soul searching, believing it the best way to honour the injured Jules Bianchi and support his family. Psychologically it was a tough day for the team, but they got behind Chilton as they worked through all their programmes without any problems.