Russian GP: Hulkenberg tops FP1 as diesel spill curtails running

Nico Hulkenberg topped a shortened first free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix as poor track conditions made things tricky for the teams.

The Force India driver took first place in the dying seconds with a lap of 1:44.355, finishing ahead of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who was just 0.052 seconds behind Hulkenberg.

Sebastian Vettel finished third for Ferrari, albeit over six tenths behind as the track got faster as conditions improved towards the end.

Sergio Perez completed a strong morning for Force India, the Mexican finishing fourth, ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz.

World champion Lewis Hamilton was only seventh quickest after managing just 10 laps.

The session was shortened due to a diesel spill on track, which meant no running was allowed for the first 30 minutes while the circuit was cleaned.

When the action finally kicked off, drivers had to use wet-weather tyres, as the track was wet in several parts due to the water used to clean the diesel.

"What a mess," said Vettel of the track conditions on his out-lap.

The first drivers who ventured out on slick tyres struggled for grip, and no time was set until 20 minutes had passed, as conditions made it impossible to get any significant running done.

Fernando Alonso was the only driver to appear on the timesheets as the session reached the final 30 minutes, only Marcus Ericsson joining the Spaniard in the following 10 minutes as teams found it pointless to run in those conditions.

As if things were not bad enough, it started to rain, although lightly, with some 20 minutes left on the clock.

Jenson Button jumped to the top of the times with a lap nearly three seconds quicker than Alonso with some 16 minutes to go, the Spaniard reducing the gap to just 0.116s moments later.

Alonso then moved back to the top with a 1:49.250 as the action began to intensify in the final minutes of running.

Valtteri Bottas second a new benchmark with a lap of 1:47.959, before Alonso regained P1 once again with a lap a full half second quicker.

The Williams driver fought back on his following lap on soft tyres, but Hulkenberg went a second quicker in the Force India to demote the Finn to second.

Rosberg then moved to second with his first timed lap of the session, set with six minutes left on the clock.

Hamilton took it even easier than his teammate, the world champion not featuring on the timesheets until the final five minutes, when Vettel went quickest with a 1:45.491.

The Ferrari driver went even quicker in the dying moments, setting a new benchmark with a lap of 1:44.986, before he was outpaced by Hulkenberg (1:44.355) and Rosberg (1:44.407).

The session ended with two spins, first by Felipe Massa and the by Hamilton. 

1 Nico Hulkenberg  Force India 1:44.355   11
2 Nico Rosberg  Mercedes 1:44.407 +0.052 15
3 Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari 1:44.986 +0.631 15
4 Sergio Perez  Force India 1:45.146 +0.791 11
5 Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull Racing 1:45.233 +0.878 10
6 Carlos Sainz Jr.  Toro Rosso 1:45.488 +1.133 13
7 Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes 1:45.691 +1.336 10
8 Valtteri Bottas  Williams 1:45.746 +1.391 13
9 Max Verstappen  Toro Rosso 1:46.203 +1.848 13
10 Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari 1:46.215 +1.860 16
11 Jenson Button  McLaren 1:46.231 +1.876 12
12 Felipe Massa  Williams 1:46.333 +1.978 12
13 Felipe Nasr  Sauber 1:46.747 +2.392 13
14 Fernando Alonso  McLaren 1:47.443 +3.088 16
15 Pastor Maldonado  Team Lotus 1:48.006 +3.651 9
16 Daniil Kvyat  Red Bull Racing 1:48.096 +3.741 9
17 Jolyon Palmer  Team Lotus 1:49.094 +4.739 9
18 Roberto Merhi  Manor 1:52.994 +8.639 12
19 Marcus Ericsson  Sauber 1:54.272 +9.917 12
20 Will Stevens  Manor 1:58.254 +13.899 6



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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Russian GP
Sub-event Friday practice 1
Track Sochi Autodrom
Article type Practice report