Leclerc makes a flying start in Russian GP practice

The 21-year-old edged out Max Verstappen in Sochi.

By Press Association Published: 27 September 2019 - 9.53am

Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped the time charts in the opening practice session for the Russian Grand Prix.

Leclerc edged out Red Bull driver Max Verstappen by just 0.082 seconds at the Sochi Autodrome.

Lewis Hamilton, who holds a 65-point championship lead heading into the final six rounds, finished fifth.

Ferrari have been the team to beat since the summer break, with Leclerc winning successive races in Belgium and Italy before team-mate Sebastian Vettel ended his 13-month losing streak with victory in Singapore last weekend.

Leclerc again led the way for the Scuderia here, with Vettel third, albeit half-a-second adrift of the German.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team have won all of the five races staged in Russia since the fixture made its debut on the calendar in 2014, but the silver cars were only fourth and fifth in the first running.

Valtteri Bottas finished 0.736 seconds down on Leclerc while Hamilton was the best part of one second adrift.

Hamilton ran off the road at Turn 2 in the opening exchanges before complaining about his brakes.

His Mercedes mechanics made alterations to his car, but the British driver was unable to reduce the deficit to Leclerc at the summit of the standings.

Neither Hamilton nor Bottas posted a time on the quicker soft tyre, however, to suggest there will be more time to come from Mercedes in the day’s concluding running.

Daniel Ricciardo broke his rear wing after a late crash. The Renault driver lost control of his car through the right-handed Turn 10 before sliding backwards into the barrier.

Daniel Ricciardo during first practice in Sochi
Daniel Ricciardo during first practice in Sochi (Luca Bruno/AP)

Ricciardo, who finished eighth, limped back to the pits.

Red Bull driver Alex Albon ended the running in fifth place, one second off the pace. British teenager Lando Norris finished 16th, 2.4 seconds off Leclerc’s pace.

Home favourite Daniil Kvyat broke down on track after an apparent fuel issue in his Toro Rosso.