Sochi – The first practice session for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix should have been an historic event for Formula 1 and for Russia. Unfortunately, events in Suzuka last Sunday, meant that it turned out to be a somewhat subdued affair.
However, it’s also the case that getting back to work gave those in the paddock closest to Jules Bianchi; his Marussia team, his Ferrari family and his close friends, a new focus and a chance to do the job they do best, which is to go racing and, temporarily at least, put personal thoughts to one side.
And so it was that twenty one cars rolled out onto the Sochi Autodrom on a cool but sunny morning, while Jules Bianchi’s Marussia car sat empty, but ready to go in the garage. The drivers discovered an interesting circuit, possibly reminiscent of Valencia or Singapore, with a couple of long straights, a challenging Turn 3 already drawing comparisons to the fearsome Turn 8 at Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit and some heavy braking, as well as several slow right angle corners.
For Scuderia Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the day went smoothly and after the final 90 minute session of the day he and his F14 T were third quickest, behind the inevitable Lewis Hamilton, quickest for Mercedes and the surprising Kevin Magnussen, second for McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen had a more difficult day, with a couple of minor technical glitches and the Finn also admitted he was unhappy with the feeling coming from the front end of his car.
There was a bigger crowd than expected in a country where Formula 1 has yet to rank highly in the public consciousness. They were able to cheer on regular Toro Rosso driver Daniel Kvyat and, making an FP1 appearance only, another Russian in the shape of Sergey Sirotkin in the Sauber. Until now, Russians have had to make do with the occasional Formula 1 street demonstration, such as Moscow City Racing, an event supported by the Scuderia’s Russian partner Kaspersky Lab. This weekend they finally get to experience the real thing
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