SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Valtteri Bottas was fastest in both practice sessions for the Russian Grand Prix on Friday as Mercedes once again looked to have untouchable pace.
Bottas set the fastest time of the day with 1 minute, 33.519 seconds in the second session, .267 ahead of his teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton. The next fastest was Daniel Ricciardo for Renault, more than a second off the pace.
Hamilton will chase his 91st Formula One win in Sunday's race, which would equal the record held by Michael Schumacher. Hamilton had a difficult start to his Russian race weekend, though, when damaged tires and interruptions to the session left him only 19th fastest in the first session.
Mercedes drivers have won all six of the races to date in Sochi, with Hamilton taking four of those victories including the last two.
Bottas set the pace in the first session with 1:34.923, beating Ricciardo by half a second. Max Verstappen was third quickest in his Red Bull, a further .147 back.
Ferrari again struggled to find pace with eighth for Charles Leclerc in the second session its best result of the day.
The first session was briefly red-flagged when Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams into the wall. Carlos Sainz Jr. spun his McLaren backwards into a barrier and broke off his rear wing.
There were mask-wearing fans scattered across the stands for Friday practice. An estimated 30,000 people are expected to be in attendance across the race weekend, far more than at any race in the pandemic-hit season so far, though Sochi organizers haven't released final ticket sales figures.
Friday also saw former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali named as the next president and CEO of Formula One. He will take over from Chase Carey in January.
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