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Russian Grand Prix (F1) – Day 1

Russian GP
Picture Source: Twitter

The 10th race of the 2020 season is upon us. Since the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the first spot has belonged to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team (Mercedes) each year. Six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has been on the podium 5 out of the 6 times an F1 race has been held at the venue, finishing first in 4 of those. The Mercedes team must be really licking their lips at the sight of the Russian GP. If their record is anything to go by, they are most certainly going to increase their lead in the Constructor Standings.

The street circuit at Sochi is 5.848 kilometers long, has 2 DRS zones, and 18 turns (12 right and 6 left). The fastest lap and fastest lap in race are both set by, you guessed it, a Mercedes racer. Valterri Bottas set the fastest lap yet in the third qualifying session of the 2018 GP, at 1:31.387. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in race in the 2019 GP with a lap time of 1:35.761.

The Track

The circuit at Sochi features a splendid 750-metre long constant radius left hand turn (Turn 3). A constant across the circuit is 90 degree turns leading into high-speed straights and bends. Turn 4, Turn 10 and on Turns 16 through 18 as well is where you will find them. Interesting to note that for the first time in 2020, we will see the softest tyre compound, the C5, be used, as Pirelli nominated the softest three compounds, C3 through C5. Head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli, Mario Isola said “Thanks to the current reduced tread depth, which was first introduced in 2019, the softer C3, C4 and C5 nomination this year should encourage the use of all three compounds without the drivers having to manage them extensively during the race.”.

Free Practice 1 (FP1):

The session saw some surprising results. Daniel Ricciardo finished 2nd, ahead of his former teammate Max Verstappen by approximately 0.150 seconds. Both Racing Point drivers finished within half a second of Max Verstappen, continuing their impressive display this season. Sergio Perez, who was due to receive upgrades to his car at Sochi, finished 4th. His teammate Lance Stroll finished 5th. Stroll’s crash in the last GP meant that the new parts went to him. Renault’s Esteban Ocon finished 6th, capping off a good FP1 for the French team. Daniil Kvyat finished 7th in the session. One can only hope that the Russian replicates this result in his home grand prix.

Carlos Sainz crashed into the barrier at Turn 7 after his car’s back end spun out when he missed the apex. That was the end of the session for him but the lap time he set earlier meant he was 12th fastest in the session. Nicholas Latifi similarly crashed on Turn 10. He came in too wide and too quick, more than the grip the tyres could afford anyway. The session had to be haulted until the car was taken away and the barriers repaired.

Most surprising of all was Lewis Hamilton being 19th fastest at the end of FP1. Hamilton suffered from a lock up while running on both soft and hard compound tyres. The team decided against using a third set, saving them for future sessions.

Valterri Bottas on the other hand, finished FP1 as the quickest driver yet again. If one was to make FP1 World Championship, Bottas would currently be on top position, as pointed out by The Race (@wearetherace) on Twitter.

Free Practice 2:

Once again, Bottas finished the session at the top of the pile. His teammate Lewis Hamilton, finished second quickest, after his FP1 session was marred by lock ups.

Ricciardo continued to impress in his Renault, finishing third, almost 0.150 seconds ahead of 4th fastest Sainz. Sainz impressed after ending FP1 on a sour note. He finished more than a tenth of a second quicker than his teammate Lando Norris.

Both Ferraris finished in the top 10 this time, with Leclerc and Vettel finishing 8th and 10th fastest respectively. The Russian Daniil Kvyat dropped down to 12th fastest from FP1 as he was overtaken by Sainz, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly and Albon.

Latifi outpaced his teammate George Russell by one hundredth of a second. Fun fact, George Russell is yet to be outqualified by a teammate in his F1 career. His record stands 30-0, having beaten Robert Kubica (2019) and Nicholas Latifi (2020) in every qualifying session. Will Latifi come close in Sochi, we will know tomorrow.

 

The Russian Grand Prix has been the Mercedes’ backyard. Hamilton will be chasing his 91st win in Formula 1, but Bottas who won his first GP at Sochi, will be in close contention.

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