Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fastest by eight-hundredths of a second in the first practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix. The Monacan set his fastest time on the harder tyre, putting him more than half a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel who was third.
The Ferrari duo set both their times on the softs, being split by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen who was eight-hundredths slower. But the Dutchman has a five-place grid penalty this weekend due to a new engine, was within a tenth of the Monegasque.
Verstappen spent much of the session outside of the top ten but picked up the pace on used soft tyres with twenty minutes left on the clock to lap within 0.082s of Leclerc.
Verstappen, Alex Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly all are taking engine penalties as Honda introduced there ‘Suzuka Special’ ahead of there home race in a fortnight. A failure for Kvyat saw the Russian only manage fourteenth, should Honda need in the closing seconds of FP1, by two-tenths of a second.
However, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost told Sky F1 that it looked like a fuel issue, but that the team were still investigating.
It was not a perfect session for Vettel, half a second off, after making errors on his flying lap in the other Ferrari. Neither Mercedes set a competitive lap on the soft tyre but based on the offset in the tyres appear to have the pace.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest, seven-tenths off Leclerc on the medium compound, with Lewis Hamilton a tenth further back in fifth. This weekend, the team are looking to avoid being beaten for the fourth time in a row which would be the first in the hybrid era.
But the session ended with Hamilton suffering a rear wing failure in the closing seconds of FP1 – by two-tenths of a second. The second Red Bull of Alexander Albon was a further tenth down in sixth place, and ninth tenths down on Verstappen.
Renault emerged as best of the rest Nico Hulkenberg seventh and Daniel Ricciardo eighth. The French manufacturer showing the pace they had at Monza. The Australians morning ended in the barriers after losing the rear and slamming backwards into the barriers.
Sergio Perez was ninth ahead of Romain Grosjean.
McLaren struggled slightly despite recent form they could only manage eleventh with Carlos Sainz, who was pushed down the order, with Pierre Gasly.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi had a spin early on at Turn 4, and wound up seventeenth on the timing screens, trailing teammate Kimi Raikkonen by half a second. Also spinning during FP1 was Robert Kubica, the Williams driver only just keeping it out of the inside wall exiting Turn Five.
George Russell was two tenths faster than teammate Robert Kubica, however, the Englishman starts from the grid for Sunday after taking on a new Mercedes internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H.