When any grand prix arrives on the F1 calendar, it always takes a while for it to establish an identity, to squeeze into a characterful niche of its own making and, like an old episode of Friends, gain an amusing title: The One with the Glittering Skyline (Singapore), The One with the Amazing Music Scene (Austin) or The One With All That Rain (Silverstone). Sochi, home of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, has still to attain that status.
It could be The One With The Glassy Surface or The One With The Oddly Narrow Paddock, but whatever way you slice it, the Russian Grand Prix is something of a race apart.
A scorching Sochi hosted the first Free Practice session of the Russian Grand Prix this morning in which Max and Daniel both completed 19 laps each. Max finished fourth with a fastest time of 1:37.174 and Daniel sixth with 1:37:290.
FP2 saw Max complete 15 laps before suffering a suspected fuel pressure issue which ended his run 15 minutes early. The Dutchman still managed to slot in fifth in the timings with a fastest lap of 1:35.540.
Daniel wrapped up Friday's run with 26 laps for a sixth place finish and a 1:35.910 as his fastest lap around the Sochi Autodrom.
The final free practice session on Saturday morning saw Max and Daniel finish in P5 and P8 respectively, with a 1:35.452 for Max and a 1:35.830 for Daniel. Next up, quali!
I think qualifying will be interesting.
Max is pragmatic about his chances in Sochi, and had this to say about the day's running:
"We ended up stopping sooner than planned due to a problem with the fuel pressure. It was a bit of a shame as it prevented us doing a long run but luckily Daniel did one so we at least have some data to look into for Sunday.
This track is not one of our favourites, we knew coming here it was going to be a tough weekend so we will just try to make the best of it. The gap to Mercedes and Ferrari looks bigger here because of the long straight; and we are down on power and downforce which makes not only the straights but also the corners tricky. I think qualifying will be interesting due to the challenge of warming the tyres up, and it's the same for everyone so putting in one perfect lap won't be easy. Realistically fifth and sixth is our aim for Sunday."
Daniel got a good amount of laps under his belt and had this to say:
I was pretty happy with the car.
"We had some good signs throughout the day while we experienced some drops among the peaks. I was pretty happy with the car on the supersoft tyre but we didn't find as much time as the others on the ultrasoft so that's a tyre we need to work on a bit. The balance with the supersoft was good so I think if we can manage to get the same feeling with the ultrasoft tomorrow then we should be looking ok.
This afternoon it was also easier to get the tyres up to temperature so I think if the weather stays the same tomorrow that should not be too much of an issue. People keep asking about the upgrades coming in Barcelona but first we need to maximise what we have with the current car and package here this weekend. We can definitely make improvements for tomorrow but as far as positions go in qualifying we are still behind Mercedes and Ferrari, so I don't think the picture will change too much between the top teams and I would say Ferrari look the best after today's running."