The pace picked up in the second practice session at the Sochi Autodrom, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen setting an impressive pace as the Formula 1 field prepares for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
After finishing second-fastest to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Friday morning’s practice session, the two drivers reversed positions for the afternoon’s second outing with Verstappen edging the Monégasque driver by three-tenths of a second.
The ultra-smooth circuit has not historically been a happy hunting ground for the Red Bull Racing team, but the RB15 challengers have looked strong so far. Verstappen and teammate Alexander Albon will both take five-place grid penalties after taking on new Honda internal combustion engines, and both will be hoping to climb through the field in Sunday’s race.
Outright championship leaders Mercedes-AMG finished third- and fifth-fastest as they ran on the Soft compound Pirelli tyres for the first time this weekend. Valtteri Bottas once again outpaced teammate Lewis Hamilton, however the Finn was still a full three-quarters of a second slower than Verstappen’s benchmark lap of 1:33.162.
The duo appeared to be focusing on longer, higher-fuel runs and the early signs suggest they might be sand-bagging on one-lap pace. Expect them to be contenders on Sunday at a race where they have so far been undefeated in its five-year history.
Splitting the Silver Arrows was Singapore Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel. The German’s position on the timesheets is unrepresentative, having made a mistake on his first qualifying-style run in the middle sector. With insufficient tyre life, he faded on his second flying lap.
Pierre Gasly drove strongly to claim the ‘best of the rest’ mantle in this session in P6, with the Toro Rosso driver shading Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg. Pérez’s teammate Lanco Stroll put both Racing Point Mercedes’ in the top-ten, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was P10.
Missing from the top half of the field was Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon, who endured a frustrating session. The Anglo-Thai driver was confined to the garage while his car’s floor was repaired and he was left without the chance of putting in a qualifying-style run.
|FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:33.162||29|
|2.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:33.497||+ 0.335||33|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:33.808||+ 0.646||22|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:33.960||+ 0.798||32|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:34.201||+ 1.039||32|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:34.971||+ 1.809||26|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:34.998||+ 1.836||31|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:35.026||+ 1.864||33|
|9.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:35.176||+ 2.014||31|
|10.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:35.216||+ 2.054||18|
|11.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:35.223||+ 2.061||33|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:35.337||+ 2.175||38|
|13.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:35.351||+ 2.189||26|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:35.370||+ 2.208||28|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:35.374||+ 2.212||34|
|16.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:35.593||+ 2.431||31|
|17.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:35.635||+ 2.473||29|
|18.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:36.004||+ 2.842||29|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:36.785||+ 3.623||38|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:37.838||+ 4.676||36|
Image via Aston Martin Red Bull Racing