Since its debut in the Formula 1 calendar, Sochi has always been a Mercedes stronghold. Only Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have been able to take victory on the Russian venue. This year seems to be no exception: in the first day of practice Valtteri Bottas has been the fastest overall, with a 2 tenths gap in the morning from Hamilton, reduced to 0.044s in the afternoon.
After the penalty in Monza, which saw him start from last to finish third, Bottas has another chance to fight for victory: is Verstappen, now, the one with the penality thanks to its fourth Honda PU, meaning both Mercedes might have aa free way at the start. The weather might change it all: an heavy rain is expected tomorrow and FP3 and Qualifying might get delayed as well. Running for quali on Sunday morning is also an option, but there is a tight schedule in Sochi, so if Quali won't happen, the FP2 - or the last free practice session disputed - classification will go as the grid for Sunday's race, meaning Bottas would get pole position.
"If you look at the timings and based on my own feeling in the car, it was a good day. From the first run, I had confidence in the car and the balance was very good so I could focus on my driving, looking for small gains" said the Finn.
"Tomorrow looks like it will be wet, so it’ll be a completely different experience. The main thing is the car feels good on the long runs so that’s encouraging for Sunday which should be dry. I really find my flow on this track and I enjoy it - when the car works well here, it’s great fun to drive".
Good feelings for Hamilton as well: after the scary accident in Monza, Sir Lewis comes back in the W12. As the world champion recalls, finding the right balance will be key for the weekend, as heavy rain is expected for Quali, but the track should come dry again for Sunday's race.
"We had two good sessions today pace-wise. We ticked off as much as we could working through different setup items and had very clean runs with no issues so overall it was a good day" said the seven time world champion.
"Valtteri and I went quite different with our setups to see which areas work best and we’ll spend tonight studying the data to understand where we want the car for tomorrow and Sunday. It looks like it will be a lot of rain tomorrow, a big wet day, and we’ll have to consider our setup with that in mind but keeping an eye on Sunday which is set to be dry".