F1: Hulkenberg, Massa Head Friday Practice in Russia; Soaked Sochi Circuit Produces Challenges

Jacob Seelman Featured, Formula One, International, Sprints & Midgets 0 Comments

SOCHI, Russia — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Lars Baron/Getty Images Europe photo —

A bizarre day for Formula One teams at the Sochi Autodrom lead to two surprising faces atop the speed charts at the end of Friday practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg (1:44.355) topped the opening session, which was delayed a half hour due to a diesel fuel spill earlier on the course, while Williams’ Felipe Massa (2:00.458) led the brave men who attempted to take time in FP2, which was plagued by rain and ended up being a near washout.

The Hulk’s lap was a half-tenth better than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, and the run gives the orange team confidence ahead of Sunday’s main event (7:00 a.m., NBCSN).

“It wasn’t the most adventurous day in the car, but I was happy with where we were at,” Hulkenberg said. “It’s always frustrating when you have a big work plan and you can’t go out, but it’s the same set of conditions for everyone. … That generally makes it more interesting and unpredictable for the rest of the weekend.”

“The next two days are likely to be dry, so Saturday’s final practice will be crucial. We will need to learn and adapt quickly ahead of qualifying. Hopefully we can squeeze a long run in during FP3 and do the necessary car and tire set-up exploration. It will be a busy session, but at the same time it could generate an opportunity for us. It’s going to be a big challenge for everyone.”

Rosberg was second-fastest in the early session (1:44.407) and said that no one could learn very much from the cards they were dealt on Friday.

“I only tried a few starts and some wet settings,” the German admitted. “But Saturday and Sunday will be dry, so it didn’t make any sense to run any longer. We have to squeeze it all in P3 and learn everything within that hour.”

Rosberg also said that he expects one team to pick up the pace and contend for a win come Sunday in race trim.

“This weekend should be a bit more of a challenge — Ferrari will be a threat on this track.”

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the sister Force India of Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull rounded out the fast five, while reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrow was a distant seventh (1:45.691), 1.336 seconds off the pace in FP1.

Massa topped an eight-man roster that took matters into their own hands during FP2, with a squall line moving through the area that largely disrupted the precedings. His sloshing lap was nearly 16 seconds off of the quick time run in the first session.

“”We weren’t able to complete a lot of laps today … but the laps we did complete gave us some understanding of the track and what it’s like in wet conditions,” Massa explained. “It’s difficult to say where we are compared to other teams at this stage because there weren’t many cars out on track, but we’ll see what happens the rest of the weekend.”

Vettel, Massa’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso were the rest of the top five in session two.

Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix will be the second running of the event that debuted on the Formula One calendar in 2014. Hamilton is the defending race winner.


About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: speed77radio@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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