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.

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

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.