Rosberg looked more comfortable than Hamilton in FP1, but the latter turned the tables in FP2. The Englishman was fastest on the soft-compound Pirelli tyres and got a great lap out of his supersofts, whereas Rosberg was six-tenths off on that rubber and didn’t get a good lap on the red-banded rubber. Both men had off-track moments, Hamilton also spinning in both sessions. The team uprated both power units that were previously used in China, after spending two development tokens to enhance the fuel system – and hence power – throughout their supply range.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:38.127, P2; FP2: 1:37.583, P1
“It’s good to be back in the car after what’s felt like a pretty long wait since China. It’s been a constructive day to start the weekend, too. We got through most of our programme except one last little bit at the end as some of my tyres were flat-spotted but no big drama there. I think we’re looking strong here – but we need to keep working hard if we are to try and stay ahead of the Ferraris. They look like they might be another step closer this weekend. We’ve got a few things to look at to make sure we perfect the setup for qualifying, so we shall see how it goes...”
Nico Rosberg - FP1: 1:38.849, P1; FP2: 1:38.450, P3
“It’s been a solid start to the weekend. It’s difficult to get it right at this track, as there’s only a small window where the tyres work perfectly and a lot of places where you can easily make mistakes. I didn’t manage to hook up a full quick lap on the supersoft in FP2. But, aside from that, it was a good day. The car felt good on a quick lap this morning and again on the longer runs this afternoon, so that’s very encouraging. It’s great to back here in Russia and I very much look forward to the rest of the weekend.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“We ran a fairly regular programme today. There are two main challenges of this circuit. The first is to get a clean lap, as there are a number of tricky braking zones – particularly at Turn Two. The second is to understand how to get the best from the tyres. As a relatively new circuit, the tarmac is still very smooth, making it difficult to generate temperature in the rubber – particularly in cooler conditions like we’ve seen today. Nevertheless, we end the day reasonably happy, with all of our Friday homework complete and both drivers satisfied with setup thus far. We’ve brought some minor upgrades to the power unit this weekend, including a new engine oil from Petronas. The main test item of the day was to make sure that this package was all working correctly for the rest of the weekend, which seems to be the case. Tomorrow will be all about understanding how to get the best single lap pace out of the car for what will undoubtedly be a close qualifying battle with Ferrari.”
Sainz found a decent balance early on and was happy with the way his day went, but Verstappen admitted that he was struggling with oversteer as his STR11’s sweet spot continued to elude him.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:40.654, P10; FP2: 1:39.465, P11
“It feels good to be back here in Russia. As I said before arriving here, this is a track that I enjoy and today we were able to cover all of our run plan with no issues, so I’m happy with that. I’m pleased with the car so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend. As we’ve seen during the first three races, the midfield is extremely tight so we need to keep working because it’s not going to be easy.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:41.134, P15; FP2: 1:39.501, P12
“Quite a difficult start to the weekend. I experienced a lot of oversteer and we haven’t found the right solution for this yet. It felt very tricky out there today – it’s difficult to enter the corner in the right way because when you try to go a bit faster you easily end up off track. Fortunately though, it’s only Friday, so we still have some time to work on this – it will be a long night but I’m confident we will be ready for tomorrow.”
Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer
“It was a bit of a mixed bag for us today. The track was quite low grip and we found the last sector in particular quite hard to master for a lot of the running. Overall Carlos was a bit happier: he hit on a balance he was quite happy with in the long-run on soft tyres, but we didn’t really get a clean lap in with him on the shorter runs. For Max it was a bit of a different story; we clearly have a bit of work to do tonight because we didn’t really hit a sweet spot with him today, so we will put the hard work in tonight to get him happy and back to where he normally is.”
As Sirotkin made an impressive debut in Magnussen’s R.S.16 in FP1, Palmer had a torrid time coping with the same vicious snap oversteer that hampered him in China. He fruitlessly tried to find a decent balance while completing aero assessment work which included back-to-back front wing comparisons, a spin and a few off-track excursions. In the afternoon Magnussen did the tyre assessment work and was cautiously optimistic for the weekend.
Kevin Magnussen - FP2: 1:40.193, P15
“First impressions are okay after today and the car isn’t too bad here. Evaluating the tyres was the main job in FP2 and the track was fairly consistent throughout the session. It’s quite distinct with the tyres here actually; there is no big difference between the soft and super soft tyres and there is very low degradation so it’ll be interesting for the race. We have a few things to work on before tomorrow’s morning practice session, though the pace we showed today is probably not far from where we are. Hopefully we can have qualifying with no mistakes or issues, then take it onto the race and seize any opportunities that come our way.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:41.671, P18; FP2: 1:40.688, P18
“I wasn’t able to get a good balance or find the sweet spot today which is always a little frustrating. Fortunately, we’ve had a good reliable day with both cars so there’s plenty of data for us to work from to make improvements for tomorrow. The track’s quite slippery out there but we accumulated a lot of laps without drama. We just need to dial-out the unwanted oversteer and I think there’s more pace to come.”
Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1:40.898
“My target for today was to give the team exactly what they wanted from the session. I tried to remain very calm even though it is, of course, very exciting to get to drive a Formula 1 car. Obviously, it’s always beneficial when your lap time looks good but I felt comfortable delivering at today’s level even if it wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been with my seat. I am happy that I have started this long programme with Renault Sport Formula One Team in a positive manner.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
“A productive first day for us. It was Sergey’s first time in the car and he did a very positive job for us. We weren’t able to get the seating position perfect for him yet despite this he delivered good pace and feedback. Jolyon had a straight-forward couple of sessions concentrating on aero development in the first session and a further front wing back-to-back comparison as well as tyre work in the afternoon. Kevin didn’t suffer from missing FP1 and was able to deliver everything required from FP2. We’ve still got some work to do, in particular with an oversteer balance. There are improvements possible, but it’s a reasonable start to the weekend.”
Massa had a clutch problem for most of the morning, but recovered to go fifth fastest on supersofts. Bottas was quicker in FP2, and believes the team can be more competitive here.
Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:39.365, P5; FP2: 1:39.289, P9
“I think it was a positive day. I’m happy with how the car is performing in the short runs and the long runs with the tyres. I think that maybe this is a better track for us than other tracks. But we just need to wait and see, and try to do the best we can.”
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:39.802, P7; FP2: 1:39.185, P6
“It was a good Friday. We managed to test everything we had planned to, including a number of new aero parts. The results from these tests are looking good which is positive. Tyre behaviour is the key at this track and that will be our focus tonight. We’ll be trying to get a bit more out of the shorter runs and maybe we can also still improve on the longer runs, although our long run pace is looking good at the moment so I’m hopeful that we can do well over the weekend.”
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
“We had a very complex test programme today. We looked at various suspension and set-up options, we’ve been looking at aerodynamic configurations with the front wing, and we’ve been doing our homework on the tyres, so it’s been really busy. We’ve collected all of the data that we need to but we have a long night ahead to make sure we have the car optimised for tomorrow. The team’s done a good job in getting through the programme after the clutch actuation problem we had with Felipe’s car this morning, which put us on the back foot, but we managed to recover and get through everything that we needed to. The car looks reasonably competitive on low and especially high fuel, which is what we’re always working towards. So for this stage of the weekend we are where we need to be, maybe even a little bit further up the road.”
Ferrari brought new upgraded power units for both SF16-Hs, plus new front wings. Vettel was third fastest in FP1, but on the basis of his single lap on supersofts in FP2, and Hamilton’s sole good lap on them, the deficit from red to silver was 0.6s. Adding to Ferrari’s disappointment, Vettel’s car then developed an electronic problem which forced him to sit out nearly an hour of the afternoon session and lose out on valuable race running. Raikkonen struggled for pace relative to his team-mate in FP2, having been close in FP1, and said it was hard to get the tyres working properly. There was further bad news in the evening when it was revealed that Vettel will have to take a five-place grid penalty as his gearbox needed changing. It is not yet clear whether that was related to the electronic problem.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:39.175, P3; FP2: 1:38.235, P2
“Looks like we had an electric problem, but I am sure we can fix it. Still, it is a shame, because now we are lacking some laps, especially in the long runs on race trims, which would have allowed us to see how competitive we are. But Kimi did the homework for the team, so it is not too bad. Also, here in Russia we know roughly what to expect. I think we can still learn a lot from what other people did. In qualifying trim we still have some stuff to improve. I think the car was getting better though. The track was quite dirty in the morning and then during the day it came more towards us. I felt happier as the day continued, it's true that for the race we are lacking a bit of information, but we will see tomorrow morning, when we have another practice session.”
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:39.332, P4; FP2: 1:38.793, P4
“It was not an ideal day, one of those days you struggle to make the tyres work and get the car where you want. I wasn't doing any proper lap, but today it's only practice, I'm sure we can improve for tomorrow. Overall I think we just have to work on the set up to make it as we want and then it should be ok. We have a new engine and new parts on the car, so far it has been working well. We wouldn't use any new thing if we did not expect it to be good.”
Button had a spin in FP1, and both he and Alonso had some exciting off-track moments in FP2. Each felt that there is work to do on the balance of the MP4-31, but there is optimism this weekend that at least one of them will make it through to Q3.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:40.771, P12; FP2: 1:39.400, P10
“Getting at least one car into Q3 tomorrow would be good news for us. I think that’s possible. I know in the past that our results on a Friday make us perhaps a little over-optimistic about our chances for Saturday, but the car felt good today. We’re not 100 percent there yet – there’s still a little bit more to come from McLaren. Let’s see if that’s enough to get us into the top 10 in qualifying.
"The car was a little unbalanced in certain corners, and we maximise the power, and make the tyre work – at the right temperature, then we can improve on 12th position.
“I hope tomorrow we can maximise our potential.”
Jenson Button - FP1: 1:40.663, P11; FP2: 1:39.196, P8
“It’s been a positive day, overall. We’ve been quick on Fridays before, and we know that we face the prospect of having to save some fuel in the race, but hopefully we’ll be able to knock on the door of Q3 tomorrow and be capable of scoring some points on Sunday.
“If we can qualify inside the top 10 tomorrow, we’ll be somewhat limited on tyre choice, but it’ll be possible to race well from there; you’re with the quicker cars, able to run in the DRS and can let them pull you along.
“This circuit tends to be quite easy on tyres – we’re able to do a lot of laps on them. I think people are still thinking about one or two stops in the race – most probably one. I think it’ll be an interesting weekend.”
Eric Boullier, racing director
“The Sochi track is deceptively challenging – and today’s sessions underlined the fact that finding a perfect balance around here is tricky.
“In the morning, we undertook a significant amount of aero and set-up development work. That made it difficult to get an accurate read on the balance, both drivers complaining that the car felt unpredictable and difficult to drive with confidence. Fortunately, we made a good deal of progress over the lunchbreak, with the result that Jenson and Fernando reported that the car felt much better in this afternoon’s session.
“It’s encouraging that we managed to get both cars into the top 10 this afternoon. While qualifying inside the top 10 brings additional strategic challenges on race day, it’s our aim to get both cars into Q3 tomorrow. Such a result will certainly prove motivational for the entire team, and a good indicator of the solid progress we continue to make.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“As both drivers have carried over their power units from the Chinese Grand Prix, Honda’s key focus during today’s free practice sessions was to provide stable running, which in turn enabled the team to concentrate on Sunday’s race set-up.
“It’s too early to tell how representative Jenson’s and Fernando’s practice results are, because all of the teams ran different fuel-loads and settings, but overall our longer stints on the soft tyres have been solid and with decent pace.
“We know that fuel economy will be tough here, so our main focus now is to manage this in the best way possible for Sunday’s race.”
Both race drivers got through their programmes, though Hulkenberg’s was necessarily halved so that Celis could get another run in FP1.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP2: 1:39.795, P13
“The track conditions were not great this afternoon and the wind made it a bit tricky, but it was the same for everyone and this is what you expect on a track so close to the sea. I still think we have a lot of information to help us make the right tweaks to improve our performance for tomorrow. I am feeling good about the weekend: the track is very enjoyable to drive and it throws quite a few challenges your way.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:40.287, P9; FP2: 1:39.867, P14
“It’s still quite early in the weekend, but the first feeling is positive. We completed a busy programme with several long runs, so we already have a good understanding of the tyres. There’s still a bit of work to do in terms of balance, but we should be competitive and fighting for a place in the top ten in qualifying tomorrow.”
Alfonso Celis - FP1: 1:43.432, P22
“I am happy about the work I did today and also about writing a page of Mexican motorsport history together with Sergio and Esteban – with three Mexicans on track. My main priority was to avoid mistakes and complete the programme the team had planned for me. I wanted to take a few more risks compared to Bahrain, but the track conditions were quite tricky and in these circumstances you can’t be selfish – you need to focus and ensure you keep your nose clean. We had a busy programme of aero evaluation and I am happy I was able to deliver the information the team needed.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer
“All in all, a routine Friday, even though the overcast conditions this morning made the air a bit colder than what is forecast for qualifying and the race. The afternoon was a bit better and we collected all the data we need to analyse this evening. Sergio’s plan focussed more on long run performance, while Nico had a slightly different programme to account for him sitting out FP1. I feel we can get more out of the car in qualifying trim, so that will be our main focus tonight and during FP3. We are happy with the indications we are getting from our long run data, but choosing the right strategy will be crucial because it’s not easy to overtake here and track position counts for a lot.”
Nasr was happier than of late after getting a new chassis for the weekend, and this time it was Ericsson who was struggling at the Swiss team.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:41.962, P19; FP2: 1:41.652, P22
“It was not the ideal Friday for me. Nevertheless, I ran many laps today gathering a lot of information on the car-side. This track has a unique asphalt, which makes it challenging to get the tyres to work. We saw it last year, and again today, and I have been struggling to get the tyres in the right window. We have tried different set-ups, but we are not going in the right direction yet. We have to look into the data and see what we can make better for the rest of the weekend.”
Felipe Nasr - FP1: 1:41.085, P14; FP2: 1:40.740, P19
“I was able to complete the programme as planned today. I covered a decent mileage, which was important in order to understand how the tyres behave compared to last year. The car is a lot more together compared to the previous race weekends. I was satisfied with the pace on soft tyres, but we have to work more on the supersoft compound. We tried some set-up work for the run on supersoft tyres, which did not work out as we wanted it to. We have to analyse this, but I think there is room for improvement.”
Like many, Haas struggled to find grip all day as the tyre temperatures failed to reach their optimum, and Gutierrez also lost a bit of time in FP1 when his VF-16’s battery needed recharging.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:41.385, P17; FP2: 1:40.260, P16
“It was good to be back in the car. Sochi’s a track I quite like. We didn’t have a very easy day trying to assess how to work our tires and how to work the car. We can improve and make the car better. Hopefully, we can find those answers for tomorrow, as our performance is not exactly where we want it to be right now. Again, it’s all about working and learning everything. We’re struggling a little bit today, but I’m sure the guys are going to react well.”
Esteban Gutierrez - FP1: 1:41.238, P16; FP2: 1:40.508, P17
“I’m pretty happy how the day went overall, as we managed to complete a lot of laps. We’re not as competitive as I would have hoped, but we gathered a lot of data today. We’ll be looking over that to try and optimize our set-up as much as we can. In FP1 we had a small interruption this morning, and then this afternoon we looked to be heading in the right direction. We’re still working on our setup with the supersoft tyres, so I think FP3 will be important for us to get a good reference for qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, team principal
“FP1 we had a small issue with Esteban’s car, which took us about 50 minutes to fix. Then we had to recharge his batteries, but it was no big issue. Between the two practice sessions we had good runs. We did quite a lot of laps - more than we’ve done before in two free practice sessions. We are still chasing our set-up for here. We need to get the tyres in the window where they work properly. Otherwise, we got a lot of running in and we’ll see what we can come out with for tomorrow morning in FP3.”
Haryanto lost a lot of FP1 when his MR05’s steering rack had to be changed, while Wehrlein’s car needed a new floor. Both were frustrated by the circuit’s refusal to rubber in, and compounding that at the end of FP2 the German rolled to a halt with a lack of power.
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:42.483, P20; FP2: 1:41.148, P21
“It was a difficult day today. The track was very slippery and so we struggled with a really low grip level. As more and more rubber goes down the conditions will keep improving so we remain positive for the rest of the weekend. We’ll have a good look at the data tonight and see what we have to do to prepare for a better day tomorrow.”
Rio Haryanto - FP1: 1:42.687, P21; FP2: 1:41.080, P20
“During the first session, we had a problem with the steering rack, so we lost about an hour of track time, but it was good that we still made it out before the end of the session. The mechanics did a very good job. Overall we’ve completed some good low and high fuel runs, so we collected a lot of data and looking at the pace it was also pretty good, but we still need to improve to get closer to the other teams.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“We’ve had our fair share of frustrations today. This morning we had to change the steering rack on Rio’s car, which cost him a lot of time in the garage, and around the same time we had to replace the floor on Pascal’s car, which was less than ideal. However, the crews did an exceptional job to recover the situation but even so we could have done without the interruption. By comparison, this afternoon was pretty straightforward in that both Rio and Pascal got through their respective programmes. This is good in that we have a lot of information about the tyres to go through this evening but at the same time we are very aware that we have quite a bit of work to do to improve our performance in time for qualifying tomorrow.”
Ricciardo briefly trialled the new Red Bull aeroscreen at the start of FP1, then just kept his usual fifth place behind the Mercedes and Ferraris and ahead of Bottas’ Williams, in FP2, despite being the only one of them to rely on the soft rubber.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:39.650, P6; FP2: 1:39.084, P5
“It was different this morning running with the aeroscreen, not having the wind rolling on me and the engine sound was different as well. The visibility was pretty good, so first impressions were fine, it was driveable. Where we have the structure in place is pretty much where the mirrors are so I wouldn’t say it hindered any more than we are now in terms of visibility. Peripheral vision was fine as well. The talk about open cockpits has been going on for a while and that’s fair enough. It would be great to keep it as it is but obviously with accidents that have happened, especially more recently, I think not exploring this seems a bit disrespectful. The plan is to probably try it again on a different circuit with different scenery, a bit more undulation or something like that or maybe a night circuit. The lights could be interesting how they reflect off the screen so we’ll give it a bit more running.”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:40.218, P8; FP2: 1:39.193, P7
“I think all in all it was quite successful running today. We did a useful amount of laps, and did short runs and long runs. The tyres will be very challenging here - to understand which one works better for which conditions and so on, so it will be interesting tomorrow to understand the strategy for qualifying. We have plenty of data to analyse tonight, we have to really see what the options are and what the best things to do are for Saturday and Sunday. This track has always been quite interesting in terms of tyre behaviour, so we really have to make that work. It’s quite close between us and Williams at the moment, it’s one of the tracks which should suit them the best this year. If we can take the fight to them and maybe get ahead of them, that’s our goal, that would be good.”
Paul Hembery, motorsport director
“Soft and supersoft tyres were seen in both sessions today, and different strategic choices from Mercedes and Ferrari about how those tyres were used. With just under a second between the two compounds, the supersoft seems set to be the qualifying tyre tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the medium tyre comes into play during the race weekend at all. We’ve got plenty of data to look at now, but initial indications suggest that a one-stopper could well be possible here: although it’s unlikely to be quickest way. This all depends on track evolution though: a hallmark of Sochi that will continue throughout the weekend.”