E s was a tailor-made start for Max Verstappen. The Dutchman took second place in the first training session and left the competition behind in the second. Charles Leclerc was 0.335 seconds off the day's fastest. Valtteri Bottas in the faster of the two Mercedes already 0.646 seconds. That’s a world in Formula 1. “The feeling is positive. We have found a good vehicle balance and are fast on both medium and soft tires, ”summed up the fourth place in the World Championship.
Red Bull returned to its usual form on Friday practice in Sochi. One had actually expected the dark blue cars to be so strong a week ago on the angled street circuit in Singapore. Red Bull tripled itself. You fed the simulator the wrong information and paid for it on the racetrack, which was bumpier than expected. “In Singapore, because of the bumps in the front, we couldn't go as deep as we have to to be fast,” explains team principal Christian Horner.
Red Bull flies in sector three
The engineers have to lower the front of the RB15, otherwise contact pressure will not work. Red Bull pursues the concept of high employment in the rear. This only works when the front wing crouches near the asphalt. In Sochi there is no problem with the bumps. The asphalt is ironed smooth. And anyway there is no basic problem with the simulator. “Everything is fine with that. It was just the wrong interpretation. That's why we couldn't drive with our set-up in Singapore, ”says Red Bull's sports director Helmut Marko.
Singapore is a slow track. The Sochi Autodrom, with a full load share of around 75 percent, is one of the power routes on the calendar. So Verstappen's superior best time came as a surprise. 'We get our time in sector three,' reports Marko. This is the most technical part of the route. Five of the six curves have an angle of 90 degrees there. Verstappens steered his RB15 through the target passage in 27 seconds. Leclerc lost three tenths. 'If the feeling is right in the car, you can let it fly there,' said a satisfied driver.
In the The first two sections of the route were tied. Not even in the first sector, where the drivers mostly give full throttle, the Ferrari outpaced the Red Bull. “Tomorrow we will see how good our engine is when the others crank it all up,” Marko looks ahead. One reason for the speed is the tire management. Verstappen quickly set fire to the delicate Pirellis on the smooth surface and brought them around without overheating.
The doctor from Graz is convinced that Red Bull can stay at the top. “We can also achieve the fastest lap time in the qualification in the dry.” Red Bull is not afraid of the announced rain anyway.
Albon brakes broken underbody
But even if Verstappen is the fastest If the round in qualifying is successful, he will not start from the best grid position. Its fifth Honda engine of the season automatically throws it back. That could hurt Red Bull in retrospect. Before the weekend, the team had carefully chosen the engine penalty. There are now enough engines in the pool to get through the season without further penalties. This ensures that you don't get caught on the wrong foot at the Honda home game in two weeks' time in Suzuka. “Suzuka is the most important race for us. Because of Honda. And we make a lot of calculations based on the route. ”The Spec-4 engine has been improved again by the Japanese engineers. That is already helping in Sochi. In Japan, a new gasoline should then release a few additional horsepower.
The long runs at Verstappen also went according to plan. So, at least on one side of the garage, there were happy faces. Alexander Albon, however, experienced a used day. 40 laps are far too little for his taste to familiarize himself further with the RB15. In the second training session, his car was mostly in the garage. The Thai hit the curbs of turn four at a bad angle and split the sub-floor. The mechanics had to change it. And because of the unpleasant contact with the curb, an oil pipe was cut.