The Friday in F1 Russian GP had Mercedes in the top spot at ease with Red Bull taking the gamble, while incidents also taking up space.
Mercedes certainly set the pace on Friday of F1 Russian GP, as Valtteri Bottas led teammate Lewis Hamilton in both the sessions. It was crucial considering the wet prediction for Saturday, leaving the teams with no chance to make adjustments for the race.
They have a free hand now with Red Bull deciding to put the fourth power unit on Verstappen’s car and with Sergio Perez a bit far off – losing out in third sector – it will help Mercedes nicely to not finish outside the Top 2 on Sunday. The Dutchman would hope for a Top 5 finish at the very least.
His pace on Friday was good enough, but he admitted that it was difficult passing as seamlessly, considering the close field they have now. For Mercedes, even thought Bottas looked the faster of the two, they always have the team order option.
Hamilton: “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. I believe this is the first time I’ve taken out a mechanic in 14 years. My heart was in my mouth, I was so worried. Thankfully he was ok, pretty courageous to stand in front of the car like that. We all make mistakes, it’s part of the journey, but it’s how we come back from them that matters most.”
Verstappen: The idea to take the fourth power unit was not not only looking at the results. I said before that we’ll take everything into account, also with the weather. So we thought it would be best to take it here. Of course, in 2018, the gaps to the midfield were a bit bigger. Naturally I think it will be a bit more difficult to come through but we have to take the penalty anyway. If we wouldn’t have taken it here we would have taken it somewhere else. We think now we’ll decide to do it here and try to make the best of it in the race. We just try to make the best possible racecar for this weekend of course, once we decided to take that engine.”
Behind the top pack, Verstappen will have host of quick cars to pass along with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who also has an engine penalty. It was a mixed bag and spread out, with McLaren’s Lando Norris up their again along with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Their F1 teammates – Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda – ended up far behind, where the former had to revert to an old power unit. The Australian did think it hampered his performance, while the Japanese lamented of lack of grip.
The Top 10 had the Ferrari duo, but Leclerc will drop back, while the place could be taken up by Alpine and Aston Martin drivers. While both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso looked to have a decent pace, Aston Martin only had Sebastian Vettel in a better position, as Lance Stroll struggled outside the Top 10.
Leclerc: “It went very good. I mean, it was a positive day. Obviously whenever you put such… a big change for everyone, for the mechanics, for us; it’s a new car. So, it’s good to see that everything was working as expected, and now we’ve been focusing mostly on the race because from qualifying anyway we start last, so we’ve done a good job today by taking as much information as we could and [I’m] happy with our Friday.
“I feel that the power unit is a little bit better, which is great. And obviously the data confirms it, so yes, it’s great to feel it and to see it. For me for Sunday, it is a very difficult track to overtake. I tried during FP2 and it was very difficult, so let’s see. We never know. I’ll try to give my best, but I expect maybe a difficult race on Sunday… but it might be a bit easier for Verstappen; he’s quite a bit quicker than us. But I’ll try to use him to just stay behind him and overtake the cars with him.”
Ricciardo: “I’m confident things will be sorted for sure. A pretty unstable Friday but I guess the glass half full approach is that it’s better now than Saturday or Sunday, so hopefully that’s done and dusted now. But there’s no denying it, it obviously affected our day, and when we did get out there, there’s yellows, there’s reds and we’re trying to do a lap and people are on high fuels, so it was definitely messy. It disrupted really all of FP2.
“There’s no sugar-coating it, it was definitely a tricky day. We can look a lot better than we did but we’ve still got to make steps regardless of the disruptions. I think the weekend’s going to have more disruptions, but I hope for all of us, not just for myself. So we’ll see what Saturday brings. A few umbrellas I think.”
Gasly: “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.”
Norris: “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. 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.”
Behind them, Alfa Romeo saw Kimi Raikkonen return to F1 action after missing time due to COVID-19. He felt fine in the car but they were lacking pace, while teammate Antonio Giovinazzi rued the late crash. The Italian binned at the same corner that Leclerc spun, where in his case the understeer was a bit more to have resulted in the barrier tap.
For Williams, both their F1 drivers felt they had more pace than what they managed eventually. They reckon they have to analyse the data to understand whats limiting them. On Haas side, there were no dramas as such, with both managing to complete their programmae, where Nikita Mazepin was ahead of Mick Schumacher.
Giovinazzi: “The wind was quite inconsistent during the run and I got a little bit of understeer – more understeer than on the lap before – and I touched the grass on the exit and I lost the rear. Unfortunately it [the crash] happened but otherwise I think we were not too bad in terms of pace, so we’ll see tomorrow. I think FP1 was not too bad and like I say, FP2 was okay so of course tomorrow is another day, but I think it was a good start. We need to see how much water there will be tomorrow and after that we’ll see how our pace in the wet will be.”
Here’s the Antonio Giovinazzi crash: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-russian-gp-fp2-giovinazzi-crash-into-barriers-brings-out-red-flags.1711788534528908668.html
Here’s Lewis Hamilton hitting his front jackman: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-russian-gp-fp2-mercedes-jack-man-falls-as-hamilton-overshoots-pit-box.1711786388902329399.html
Here’s how F1 Russian GP FP1 panned out
Here’s how F1 Russian GP FP2 panned out