The first free practice of the Russian Grand Prix is already on the agenda. After the collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, the two star drivers continued the battle at Sochi Autodrom. A circuit that has always been a Mercedes hunting ground to date, has to face the Dutchman despite a three-place grid penalty. F1 Maximum keeps you continuously informed of the preparatory work that is done on Friday.
On Friday, the teams traditionally start running various test programs. For example, long runs will be held to see how the tires behave over a race distance and qualifying simulations will also take place. Friday is always about collecting data and with only an hour of test time in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, the track promises to be busy.
In terms of layout, Sochi Autodrom is a circuit that should suit Mercedes well and Red Bull Racing less so. The Russian asphalt has two long straights and sectors with 90-degree turns, in which a good exit is especially important and precision is required from the drivers. However, the last sector of the circuit consists of some slower corners, which means that teams can also decide to drive with a lot of downforce. Judging by the RB16B, Verstappen’s racing stable will be experimenting with this today.
However, it remains difficult to draw a conclusion based on the information from the first days, especially for a weekend with rain. On Saturday, it seems for the time being that qualifying will be held on a wet road. That can shake up the rankings. Light rain is also expected on Sunday, meaning that battle plans drawn up on Friday may be out the window before the lights are out.
Red Bull to decide on Verstappen engine change
Another pressing issue of this weekend is Verstappen’s engine change. After the crash in Great Britain, it has become clear that the Limburger will have to put in a fourth engine sometime this year and take the corresponding grid penalty. Whether they already do this in Russia depends on several factors, one of which is the competitiveness of the team. If things go well on Friday, that could already be an indication that Red Bull is still waiting with the engine change.
Can Bottas hits back at Sochi?
You would almost forget, but Valtteri Bottas has not won a single race for Mercedes in 2021. Perhaps the greatest opportunity to change this for the Finn is Sochi. He always goes well on the slippery asphalt and has a nose for the rectangular bends that the track often consists of. Bottas is certainly one of the favorites for the win, although a team order could still throw a spanner in the works for him.
LIVE: F1 2021 Russian Grand Prix Free Practice 1
September 24, 2021, 11:33 | FP1 comes to a close
The chequered flag comes down for Free Practice 1, bringing the opening session of the weekend to a close.
Bottas remains on top, with Hamilton in second and Verstappen third respectively.
September 24, 2021, 11:30 | The flag is out!
And that means that the Mercedes will finish the first training session fastest, but the good news is that Verstappen is not far away.
September 24, 2021, 11:28 | Final laps on the way
We’re into the dying minutes of the session, and several drivers are on track to set their final laps.
September 24, 2021, 11:23 | Verstappen’s new attempt
He wasn’t any faster, went in and there he still stands. No one is working on time improvements, not even Perez, who again isn’t looking great at P9. He concedes one and a half seconds to Verstappen.
September 24, 2021, 11:22 | Bottas still leads the way
Bottas remains at the top of the timings, with Hamilton 0.211 seconds behind in second place. Both Mercedes drivers have set their laps on the Hard compound.
Verstappen is in third, having set his time on the Softs.
September 24, 2021, 11:18 | Two cooldown laps for Verstappen, then another fast run
That’s what Verstappen is told about the plan for this particular run.
September 24, 2021, 11:16 | Verstappen fast on the track
However, he is not fast enough to displace the Mercedes from the first two places. The purple middle sector stands out in a positive way, but in the first and last sector it loses a bit.
September 24, 2021, 11:04 | Everyone on the track now, except Verstappen
September 24, 2021, 11:01 | Halfway point
We’re now halfway through this opening practice session for the Russian Grand Prix, with Bottas currently leading the way from Hamilton and Leclerc.
Just a reminder that you can switch between our live blog and the live timing throughout the session, with the live timing tab located to the right at the top of the live blog.
September 24, 2021, 10:58 | Another fast lap for Bottas
Bottas is now running the Soft tyre and sets the fastest time with a lap of 1:34.427. Things are looking promising for the Mercedes driver.
September 24, 2021, 10:50 | Verstappen sets the fastest time
It’s now Verstappen who has gone fastest, with a lap time of 1:36.055 on the Soft tyre.
September 24, 2021, 10:49 | Verstappen is not happy
He complains about the power output of the engine: ‘Horrible’, he even calls it. Red Bull notes it and will no doubt work on it when he returns to the pits. But not before he goes to the fastest time. However, he has a tire advantage with that soft compound.
September 24, 2021, 10:44 | Verstappen starts his out lap
Verstappen leaves the pits for his out lap, running the Soft compound tyre.
September 24, 2021, 10:41 | Leclerc is the fastest
That is not entirely illogical on that set of soft tires. The four men behind him, from Hamilton to Sainz, are all on hard tires. Vettel is the fastest man on the medium compound.
September 24, 2021, 10:41 | No Verstappen yet
Every car has now headed out onto the Sochi Autodrom circuit apart from Max Verstappen, who seems to be biding his time. Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez is currently in fifth place on the timesheets.
September 24, 2021, 10:38 | Raikkonen is back!
The Alfa Romeo driver is back. In Zandvoort he tested positive for corona, after which he was replaced for two races by Robert Kubica. Now, however, Kimi Raikkonen is back for the last Formula 1 Grand Prix of his career. He will retire at the end of the season.
September 24, 2021, 10:33 | Action on the track!
And it is immediately busy with seventeen cars. Verstappen, however, is still getting ready to get into the car. He’s still waiting for an installation round.
September 24, 2021, 10:30 | FP1 begins!
The green light is on, meaning that Free Practice 1 at the Russian Grand Prix is officially underway.
You can switch between our live blog and the live timing throughout the session, with the live timing tab located to the right at the top of the live blog.
September 24, 2021, 10:18 | Leclerc will start from the back
The Ferrari driver will start the weekend with a new engine, his fourth. He will therefore also be put back on the grid and a tough task awaits. By the way, he does have an upgraded engine, which may help him in his advance.
September 24, 2021, 09:52 | A grid penalty for Verstappen in any case
You will not have missed it. However Verstappen qualifies, he will be put three places back on the grid anyway. He was identified as the cause of the crash with Hamilton at Monza and that will cost him dearly.
It could be an additional reason for Red Bull to decide to change Verstappen’s engine, which would require him to start with another grid penalty at the back. However, the decision on that will probably fall on Saturday.
September 24, 2021, 09:43 | Red flag!
Huh, we haven’t started yet, have we? No, that’s right, but this weekend is packed with a support act. At the moment it is the Formula 2 guys who are training and it is Alessio Deledda who has spun.
September 24, 2021, 09:41 | How’s the weather?
At the moment it is dry at the Sochi Autodrom. It may remain that way, but most rain is forecast for Saturday. So much so that the postponement or cancellation of certain sessions is secretly taken into account. A qualifying on Sunday morning? No scenario is ruled out, it seems.