Formula 1 Friday Practice: Lewis Hamilton Sets the Pace for Russian Grand Prix

Both Mercedes drivers flew in formation in Friday practice, getting a start to the weekend that could worry Ferrari.

byJames Gilboy|
F1 photo

Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest lap of Friday's free practice sessions for this weekend's 2018 Russian Grand Prix. The popular Brit was tailed by his teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Nearest the leading Silver Arrows so far, but still trailing by more than two tenths are both Red Bulls, nary two hundredths between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Just over a tenth behind the leading bull was the faster of the two Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel more than a half-second off the pace of provisional leader and championship rival Hamilton. His Sauber-bound teammate Kimi Räikkönen was the only driver from the top three teams not to limbo under the 1:34 bar.

The three leading grid slots have been repaved since the 2017 Russian Grand Prix, and Mercedes was spotted doing practice starts on another patch of new asphalt in the pit lane. Some also claim to have seen Red Bull practicing starts there as well.

Despite missing the morning practice session so Force India's development driver Nicholas Latifi could have a spin in the VJM11, Sergio Perez emerged in the afternoon as the best of the rest, though still slower than the frontrunners by more than seven tenths. A surprising eighth was Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso-Honda, his pace potentially buoyed by a Honda engine upgrade which Motorsport reports has been deployed in both STR-Hondas this weekend. Spanish journalist Albert Fabrega reports that this upgrade is potentially worth up to 40 horsepower.

Gasly's teammate Brendon Hartley has not capitalized on the Honda upgrades as well, and is almost 0.9 seconds off the Frenchman, though that means that the strategically-taken grid penalties (so Honda can prepare for a strong homeland performance in Japan) for the new engines will not sting as badly for the Kiwi. Force India's Esteban Ocon comes in just one hundredth behind Gasly, and Marcus Ericsson (who missed FP1 to let his replacement Antonio Giovinazzi drive) hit the ground running, squeaking into the top ten under two tenths behind Perez.

Despite both its drivers appearing in the top speed trap readings in practice, Williams sits dead last in 19th and 20th, with its FW41 refusing to cooperate with either driver. Oddly, despite whizzing through the speed trap at 3 kph faster than Sergey Sirotkin, Lance Stroll was the only driver to fail to break the 1:37 mark in practice Friday. A Williams spokesperson confirmed to The Drive earlier this week that development on the FW41 to fix its flaws is ongoing, but that most of the team's attention has turned to its 2019 car, the FW42.

"We are still trying to unlock some performance in the FW41, but attention turned to the FW42 as well a while back," a Williams spokesperson told The Drive.

Below is a full index of each driver's best time and margin of improvement between sessions. Development, reserve, and junior drivers are italicized.

  1. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes - 1:33.385, -1.433 from FP1
  2. Valtteri Bottas/Mercedes - 1:33.584, -1.415 from FP1
  3. Max Verstappen/Red Bull - 1:33.827, -0.711 from FP1
  4. Daniel Ricciardo/Red Bull - 1:33.844, -1.680 from FP1
  5. Sebastian Vettel/Ferrari - 1:33.928, -0.560 from FP1
  6. Kimi Räikkönen/Ferrari - 1:34.388, -1.308 from FP1
  7. Sergio Perez/Force India - 1:35.122 (No FP1 appearance)
  8. Pierre Gasly/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:35.137, -1.807 from FP1
  9. Esteban Ocon/Force India - 1:35.147, -0.516 from FP1
  10. Marcus Ericsson/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:35.295 (No FP1 appearance)
  11. Kevin Magnussen/Haas - 1:35.331, -0.865 from FP1
  12. Carlos Sainz Jr./Renault - 1:35.341 (No FP1 appearance)
  13. Charles Leclerc/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:35.432, -1.622 from FP1
  14. Nico Hülkenberg/Renault - 1:35.568, -0.706 from FP1
  15. Romain Grosjean/Haas - 1:35.911, -0.905 from FP1
  16. Brendon Hartley/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:36.024, -1.920 from FP1
  17. Fernando Alonso/McLaren - 1:36.074 (No FP1 appearance)
  18. Stoffel Vandoorne/McLaren - 1:36.617, -0.570 from FP1
  19. Antonio Giovinazzi/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:36.712 (FP1 only)
  20. Sergey Sirotkin/Williams - 1:36.861, -0.364 from FP1
  21. Lance Stroll/Williams - 1:37.001, -2.136 from FP1
  22. Lando Norris/McLaren - 1:37.022 (FP1 only)
  23. Artem Markelov/Renault - 1:37.183 (FP1 only)
  24. Nicholas Latifi/Force India - 1:37.206 (FP1 only)