F1 2014 Russian Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest in Sochi practice

PUBLISHED: 16:57 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 17:01 10 October 2014

Lewis Hamilton driving around the Sochi circuit ahead of the 2014 Russian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton driving around the Sochi circuit ahead of the 2014 Russian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz

Formula One star Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets on the first day of practice ahead of the inaugural 2014 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

The 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas driver from Hertfordshire was fastest overall on the first day’s running at the new Sochi Autodrom.

The Silver Arrows pairing of Nico Rosberg and world championship leader Hamilton ended the first session in P1 and P2 respectively, separated by less than a tenth of a second.

Rosberg clocked 1m 42.311s around F1’s newest circuit, with Hamilton’s best lap of the morning being a 1m 42.376s.

However, Hamilton ended the day with the fastest time set in the second session, 0.864 seconds clear of second-placed McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen, the Mercedes man clocking 1m 39.630s.

Sochi Autodrom – the stats you need

* Race distance: 53 laps (310.209km/192.764 miles)

* Start time: 15:00 (local)/11:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: 5.853km/3.637 miles

* Lap record: N/A (predicted lap time 1m37s)

* First race: 2014

Hamilton already feels at home around the Sochi circuit. He said: “I like the new circuit; it’s got really good grip and great corners, with a lot at medium speed. It’s good fun.

“The car has been feeling really good today. McLaren look close which is great for everyone as it should make for a decent race.

“We’ve got quite a good balance with the car so there are a lot of boxes ticked but we still have work to do to see if we can improve for tomorrow.”

Mercedes rival Rosberg, who was fourth in second practice, said: “That was a very productive day from an engineering point of view. The team decided to go two different ways in terms of set-up.

The 2014 Russian Grand Prix circuit in Sochi [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]The 2014 Russian Grand Prix circuit in Sochi [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

“I took a very creative setup for my car in the second practice session, which didn’t work out.

“So we will go back to the conservative way for tomorrow [Saturday qualifying], because we saw that Lewis was very quick with that.

“The track is really cool to drive, very enjoyable. Turn Three is a very special one and the asphalt is very smooth, so the tyres last long.

“We won’t see that many pit stops on Sunday, I guess. That’s a bit surprising to me.”

Mercedes used the Pirelli medium tyre during the first session today (Friday), and the medium and soft in the afternoon.

The Silver Arrows team completed a total of 113 laps, equivalent to more than two complete race distances.

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff said: “Like at any new track, the surface was very green today and we need running time for the grip levels to build up; we could see that lap times were improving all the way through both sessions.

“The conditions will probably ramp up even further through the weekend and we need to make the right decisions on set-up.”

Taking up this thread, technical director Paddy Lowe added: “On track, the biggest challenge of the weekend will be to make the tyres work on this brand new tarmac.

“The problems seem to be shared by all teams and we worked hard between the sessions to make some changes, with some moderate success.

“We expect tomorrow to prove very challenging as a number of our competitors were looking very fast today.

“On the positive front, we enjoyed a trouble-free day in terms of reliability, but we have a busy evening of analysis ahead of us.”

Qualifying for the 2014 Russian Grand Prix takes place at lunchtime on Saturday.

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