Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Vettel leads close opening session in Sochi

2018 Russian Grand Prix first practice

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Sebastian Vettel was quickest in the first practice session for the Russian Grand Prix but Red Bull and Mercedes also put in competitive showings.

Vettel was only five-hundredths of a second faster than Max Verstappen following their runs on the hyper-soft tyres. Both Red Bull drivers, however, will have to take grid penalties on Sunday after fitting new engines for this weekend’s race.

Lewis Hamilton was three-tenths of a second slower in third place but his set his time on the soft tyres: the hardest rubber available this weekend, three ‘stages’ harder than Vettel’s hyper-softs. Hamilton’s lap time compared particularly favourably to Vettel’s in the final sector, though several drivers on hyper-softs found the tyres began to wilt by the end of the lap.

While Vettel stuck to the hyper-softs throughout the session, Kimi Raikkonen switched to ultra-softs for his second run and ended up seventh-quickest. Esteban Ocon’s Force India pipped him to sixth place behind Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo.

The top 10 was completed by Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg – who pitted before the end of the session with a technical problem on his Renault – and Sauber’s recently-announced 2019 driver Antonio Giovinazzi. The latter was one of four test drivers in action during the session.

The others included Giovinazzi’s fellow 2019 driver Lando Norris, who had a brief spin in Fernando Alonso’s McLaren on his way to 13th place. Artem Markelov increased the contingent of Russian drivers on the track at their home race to two but was the best part of a second off Hulkenberg in 15th. And Nicholas Latifi returned for Force India, ending up 17th.

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Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
15Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.48819
233Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’34.5380.05022
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.8180.33023
477Valtteri BottasMercedes1’34.9990.51128
53Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’35.5241.03611
631Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’35.6631.17524
77Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’35.6961.20819
820Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’36.1961.70821
927Nico HulkenbergRenault1’36.2741.78618
1036Antonio GiovinazziSauber-Ferrari1’36.7122.22422
118Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’36.8162.32823
1210Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’36.9442.45625
1347Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’37.0222.53425
1416Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’37.0542.56624
1546Artem MarkelovRenault1’37.1832.69522
162Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’37.1872.69927
1734Nicholas LatifiForce India-Mercedes1’37.2062.71824
1835Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’37.2252.73725
1928Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’37.9443.45628
2018Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’39.1374.64913

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First practice visual gaps

Sebastian Vettel – 1’34.488

+0.050 Max Verstappen – 1’34.538

+0.330 Lewis Hamilton – 1’34.818

+0.511 Valtteri Bottas – 1’34.999

+1.036 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’35.524

+1.175 Esteban Ocon – 1’35.663

+1.208 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’35.696

+1.708 Kevin Magnussen – 1’36.196

+1.786 Nico Hulkenberg – 1’36.274

+2.224 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’36.712

+2.328 Romain Grosjean – 1’36.816

+2.456 Pierre Gasly – 1’36.944

+2.534 Lando Norris – 1’37.022

+2.566 Charles Leclerc – 1’37.054

+2.695 Artem Markelov – 1’37.183

+2.699 Stoffel Vandoorne – 1’37.187

+2.718 Nicholas Latifi – 1’37.206

+2.737 Sergey Sirotkin – 1’37.225

+3.456 Brendon Hartley – 1’37.944

+4.649 Lance Stroll – 1’39.137

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Vettel leads close opening session in Sochi”

  1. Only three tenths off last season’s pole time. Last time out in Singapore the ultimate improvement was surprisingly nearly three and a half seconds, but I don’t expect a similar amount of gain to happen this time around.

    1. Last season’s pole time was a 1:33.1 so 1.3 seconds off the pole time not 3 tenths

      1. @John Yes, I realized that later. My bad. For a moment, I remembered, it was in the low-1m34s, but it, of course, was indeed in a low-1m33.

  2. Am I understanding correctly that the hypers can’t last a single fast lap?

    1. are you surprised?

    2. @m-bagattini Watch the teams still go 20 laps on the hypers in the race to make it a traditionally boring 1 stop.

  3. Although FP1 doesn’t count for much, but still an impressive showing by Antonio Giovinazzi.

  4. Keith, you really need to add the tire information to that table (best laps). Otherwise, it’s hard to read. We readers have to look at it while remembering the tire information you provided in text above.

    Keep on with the good work :)

    1. Did Hamilton set any kind of comparable time on hypersofts? Given the gap between hypersoft and soft (BBC has 1 to 2 seconds??) that .3 advantage in fact seems seriously deficient. If Mercedes can get the soft tyre to perform and the hypersoft is deteriorating, Ferrari’s tyre selection strategy is already beginning to look problematic.

      1. No, Hamilton and Bottas only ran stints with the ultra and the normal soft

        1. @johnmilk OK thanks! first practice is a bit early for me :)

          1. @david-br Formula 1 twitter account uploads the info at the end of the sessions, here

  5. I know its only FP1 but Vandoorne isn’t supposed to let Norris beat his time. Considering it is the only session Norris will get, Vandoorne should have made a point to smash what ever time Norris posted. Good luck finding a seat next year when you can’t even beat the rookie who is replacing you in free practice.

    1. Would McLaren have replaced Vandoorne with Norris if they didn’t think he was better?

      1. Is that a rhetorical question? That is the point I am making.

  6. Ouuch for Vandoorne, hes been in that car all season, but good on Norris.

    It’s just more evidence that Vandoorne is average, a lovely guy, but not a top driver.

    1. Such a shame, I really wanted to think it was the car and Alonso’s preferential treatment for his poor performances. Stick him in the Kovaleinen catgetory of drivers.

  7. People read too much into FP1 times, especially when test drivers outperform team mates.

    For example I am sure both Vandoorne and Leclerc were not looking to smash laptimes but get car set up right.

    1. So a test driver that sits in the car 4 times a season can set up a car quicker and better than the guy in the seat all year? (referring to Vandoorne)

      1. I feel like you fundamentally misunderstand free practice, especially free practice 1

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