FP2: Verstappen beats Leclerc to set impressive Sochi pace
Red Bull haven’t always run well at Sochi, but they looked pretty strong on Friday as Max Verstappen set an impressive pace in second practice for the Russian Grand Prix…
Just a fraction off the leading time in FP1, Verstappen swapped places with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the afternoon, clocking a 1m33.162s, 0.335s quicker than two-time race winner Leclerc.
What of the Mercedes? Well Valtteri Bottas, winner in Sochi in 2017, was their leading charge, but he was three quarters of a second adrift in third.
Admittedly, it appeared Mercedes did their low-fuel soft tyre runs on slightly higher fuel loads relative to their rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was just over a tenth slower than team mate Bottas in fifth with Sebastian Vettel, winner last time out in Italy, making a mistake on his first run in sector two and running out of tyre life on his second run.
As is typical in FP2, teams spent the second half of the 90-minute session running high fuel to gather data for Sunday’s race and the early signs suggest Mercedes are looking very strong.
Pierre Gasly was best of the rest in seventh, the Toro Rosso driver edging ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the trio split by just half a tenth.
Lance Stroll made it two Racing Points in the top nine, with McLaren’s Lando Norris rounding out the top 10 at the Sochi Autodrom.
While Red Bull will have been pleased with Verstappen’s exploits, there was frustration on the other side of the garage, with Alexander Albon’s RB15 spending much of the session up on the jacks. He failed to get a proper soft tyre run, ending up 11th overall.
Mercedes have triumphed in each of the five Russian Grands Prix held at Sochi, but it appears they will face a stiff challenge to maintain that stellar run. Roll on free practice three…