Charles Leclerc set the pace in the first practice session for the Russian Grand Prix, while Daniel Ricciardo finished FP1 with a crash.
Following on from a one-two last weekend in Singapore, Ferrari started in Sochi in good shape, with Leclerc posting a 1m34.462s to lead Max Verstappen by 0.082s. Singapore winner Sebastian Vettel was third with a 1m35.005s. The top three all used the softest tire compound for their best laps.
By contrast, Mercedes – the team that has won every race held in Sochi so far – was the only team to use the medium compound for its quickest attempts, explaining the gap to Leclerc: Valtteri Bottas ended up over 0.7s adrift in fourth place, while Lewis Hamilton was nearly a second slower in fifth.
Bottas had a worrying moment late in the session when his rear wing failed. The upper element dropped on the left hand side after he had used DRS on the run to Turn 2, but the Finn was able to return to the pits without drama.
Alexander Albon was sixth-quickest ahead of the Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Ricciardo, but the Australian will not be happy with how his session ended. On his final timed lap of FP1 – the checkered flag already out – Ricciardo lost the rear of his car at Turn 10 and swapped ends before hitting the barrier backwards. The impact damaged the rear wing and Ricciardo had to limp back to the pits for repairs.
Ricciardo wasn’t the only driver having trouble, as home favorite Daniil Kvyat stopped at Turn 15 early in the session. Kvyat is already set to start from the back of the grid after taking a new Honda power unit this weekend, but he managed just five laps and the 19th fastest time before being forced to stop in the final sector.
As well as grid penalties for the Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers – all except Kvyat taking five-place drops for running a new Honda ICE – Robert Kubica will start from the back of the grid for using extra power unit components. Kubica also had a spin at Turn 5 during the session, his incident coming shortly after a similar one for Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 4 on a track that is traditionally low on grip.
There was encouragement for Racing Point and Haas as Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean were ninth and 10th respectively in FP1, although Haas was almost involved in an embarrassing incident when Hamilton came close to running into the back of one of its cars at the pit lane entry.