Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first Russian GP practice
Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton in a predictable Mercedes one-two in first practice for the Russian Formula One Grand Prix on Friday.
Mercedes have won all seven races held in Sochi since the 2014 Winter Olympic venue first hosted a grand prix that year and Bottas has a strong record in Russia, winning in 2017 and 2020.
The Finn's best lap of one minute 34.427 seconds on a dry track and soft tyres in a largely uneventful session was 0.211 quicker than Hamilton, a four-time winner in the Black Sea resort, also on softs.
Red Bull's championship leader Max Verstappen was third fastest, 0.227 off the pace on soft tyres with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fourth and Sebastian Vettel fifth for Aston Martin. Pierre Gasly was sixth for AlphaTauri.
Leclerc will be starting from the back of the grid on Sunday after a power unit change while Verstappen has a three-place grid penalty resulting from his collision with Hamilton at the previous race at Monza.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points in the standings after 14 of 22 races.
Mercedes are 18 points clear of Red Bull in the constructors' championship.
Bottas told reporters on Thursday that he would be prepared to "take one for the team" and let Hamilton win in Sochi if the situation arose. The Finn is leaving Mercedes for Alfa Romeo at the end of the season.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Italian GP winner in a McLaren one-two, was only 14th fastest while team mate Lando Norris lapped eighth quickest.
Norris spun after the session ended while on his way back to the pits but the damage appeared minimal.
"I think we should be back in the usual mix this weekend," commented team boss Andreas Seidl.
"If we manage again to get everything together we should be in a good position to win a lot of points."
Kimi Raikkonen returned for Alfa Romeo after missing the last two races due to testing positive for COVID-19.