F1 Drivers Scramble To Set Fast Laps in FP1 Practice Amidst Predicted Qualifying Setback at Sochi

Published 09/24/2021, 5:31 AM EDT
Motor racing – Formula One – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 24, 2021 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in action during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov


Valtteri Bottas managed to carry a similar level of performance from Italian GP into the first practice session at Sochi. The Finn was visibly quicker than his Mercedes F1 teammate, Lewis Hamilton by quite a margin.

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The latter’s championship rival, Max Verstappen, had a rather uncheerful morning, as his Red Bull could hardly compete against Mercedes. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc, with the upgraded Ferrari engine, looked quite threatening, as he constantly kept himself close to the top-field.

How the F1 session unfolded

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Most of the drivers hit the track sporting either medium or hard tires, with Hamilton provisionally going fastest ahead of Perez and Leclerc.

Motor racing – Formula One – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 24, 2021 Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in action during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

The latter of all certainly looked much confident with the upgraded Ferrari engine. Soon, Bottas shattered his teammate’s lap time to go fastest with a 1:37:147, over a second quicker than Hamilton. As the session moved forward, the track evolution was very evident with more drivers starting to put up strong lap times.

15 minutes into the session, Bottas continued to lead the pack with a much better lap time of 1:36:412, over 0.2s quicker than Hamilton. Meanwhile, Verstappen looked shockingly off-color, struggling to match Bottas’ lap times despite sporting a much softer tire compound (Soft).

Drivers opting to use up soft tires

During the session, Karun Chandhok reckoned that the teams were looking to burn the soft tires in FP1 and FP2, as qualifying was likely to take place under wet conditions, and saving up the red-marked tires for Saturday would prove to be pointless.

Motor racing – Formula One – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 24, 2021 AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in action during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Rightfully so, Bottas set the fastest lap time yet, this time on the soft tires; 1:34:427. And yet again, Hamilton was around 0.2s slower than the Finn, while Verstappen was 1.2s off-pace. Leclerc managed to put together a much better lap to go P3, 0.7s adrift Bottas.

Vettel claimed a morale-boosting P5 for Aston Martin, who haven’t been enjoying their campaign since the summer break. Finally, Sainz and Norris completed the top 7.

Spins and crashes during FP1

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Giovinazzi was the first driver to commit the usual error of locking his tires, going into turn 2. The Italian had to weave his way through the rather narrow bollards, before joining the track.

22 minutes into the session, Gasly ran over the sausage kerbs into the apex around turn 2 and had to follow a similar protocol before rejoining the track around turn 3. During the latter part of FP1, Norris lost the rear going into turn 10 and almost crashed into the barriers, but managed to regain control to keep his car safe from damages.

Motor racing – Formula One – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – September 24, 2021 Fans with flags during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Overall, a very busy Friday morning at Sochi has come to an end, and we await the arrival of FP2 set to take place later in the afternoon. So, with hardly hours to go, can Verstappen bounce back and continue to give his rival a hard time?

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Rohit Kumar

1253 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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