The German shaded team mate Lewis Hamilton in the inaugural F1 session on Russian soil, but once again it was close: the German lapped in 1m 42.311, with the Englishman just 0.065s adrift on 1m 42.376s.
The surprise was McLaren's Jenson Button who finished with the third quickest time of 1m 42.507s. The Englishman got down to that time in the first half hour of the session, and was fastest until the Mercedes drivers improved.
Fernando Alonso was as close as one would expect on a Friday, with 1m 42.720s for Ferrari, while Kevin Magnussen was fifth in the second McLaren, heading a slew of drivers - nine in total - in the 1m 43s bracket.
The Dane lapped in 1m 43.026s to head Sergio Perez's Force India on 1m 43.129s, local hero Daniil Kvyat's Toro Rosso on 1m 43.164s, Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari on 1m 43.212s, Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso on 1m 43.327s, the Williamses of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa on 1m 43.542s and 1m 43.741s respectively, Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull on 1m 43.821s and Nico Hulkenberg's Force India on 1m 43.976s.
Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel was only 14th on 1m 44.506s for Red Bull, ahead of Adrian Sutil's Sauber on 1m 44.625s and Pastor Maldonado's Lotus on 1m 44.876s.
Besides Kvyat, the other attraction for the enthusiastic Russian spectators was Sergey Sirotkin's maiden Grand Prix outing with Sauber, in Esteban Gutierrez's C33. The 19-year-old Formula Renault 3.5 racer did a very good job to take 17th on 1m 45.032s, just ahead of Lotus's Romain Grosjean on 1m 45.190s.
Spanish youngster Roberto Merhi subbed again for Kamui Kobayashi in FP1 and was Caterham's faster runner with 1m 46.782s, which just shaded team mate Marcus Ericsson's 1m 46.922s.
Finally, Max Chilton lapped the sole Marussia in 1m 47.284s, the Banbury team having opted to run just one car in Sochi out of respect for injured driver Jules Bianchi..
As expected, the track looked suitably slippery in FP1 and many drivers had off-track moments, one of them being a rare spin for Button at Turn 8. Most teams focused on long run work after the first half hour, however, so the picture can be expected to change this afternoon when more rubber has been laid down on the new surface.