- Max Verstappen led the way for Red Bull in Friday’s practice running, taking heart from the team’s competitive pace in all three sectors of the circuit. Red Bull had been expected to struggle against Ferrari’s straight-line speed advantage through the first two sectors, but remained closely-matched.

- While Verstappen will drop five places on the grid due to an engine penalty, he said it did not dampen his mood after a strong Friday. “I think if you are quick you can still pass people,” he said.

- Teammate Alexander Albon lost track time in FP2 after suffering some floor damage through the session, limiting him to P10 in the final standings. Albon also took the blame for a near-miss with Lewis Hamilton after going slowly through Turn 3, with the oncoming Mercedes passing to the inside and avoiding contact.

- Hamilton said there was plenty of work for Mercedes to do heading into Saturday, estimating the team was losing as much as eight-tenths of a second to the Ferraris on the straights. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was pleased with how his car had felt through Friday, leaving him at a loss to explain why Mercedes was so far back from the lead runners.

- The Ferrari drivers offered mixed views on their Fridays. Sebastian Vettel called the day “strange”, saying he had tried a few different things on setup that had not worked entirely as hoped, having lagged down in P5 in FP2. Charles Leclerc was more upbeat after finishing the day second-fastest and topping FP1, but warned there was more time for Ferrari to find.

- Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto said the update for the SF90 car brought by the team to Singapore would be the last major package of the season, with only minor updates set to follow as attention shifts to 2020.

- Discussing the 2021 regulations and the ongoing talks, Binotto downplayed the idea of Ferrari using its veto to get its way, saying it would be “a shame” if it was used and that there was still time after October to iron out the more minor details.

- Binotto’s understudy, Laurent Mekies, confirmed that Sebastian Vettel will complete Ferrari’s running at the last-minute additional Pirelli tyre test taking place in Barcelona between Sochi and Russia. Mercedes and Red Bull will join Ferrari in the test, running Esteban Ocon and Jake Dennis respectively. It is likely to be Ocon’s final formal running for Mercedes ahead of his move to Renault for 2020.

- The FIA confirmed it would be using a new slalom escape road at Turn 2 as part of its clampdown on track limits at the corner. Whereas drivers have been required to keep to the left of a bollard after missing the apex in previous years, they will now have to snake past three bollards (left-right-left) before re-joining the circuit.

- The power unit element changes were confirmed for all four Honda-powered drivers midway through FP1, triggering five-place grid penalties for Verstappen, Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly. Daniil Kvyat will start at the back of the grid after Honda opted to change the engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K on his power unit.

- Robert Kubica will join Kvyat at the back of the grid after also taking a new engine, MGU-H and turbocharger.

- Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen have both taken fresh gearboxes ahead of the race weekend. Both do so without a penalty being triggered.

- Kvyat was set to discuss the FIA’s rule on multiple helmet design changes in a single season with race director Michael Masi on Friday after being prevented from using a one-off helmet design for his home grand prix. Kvyat used a one-off design at Monza earlier this month, making it the one ‘joker’ design change allowed under the FIA regulations. Kvyat called the rule a “joke”, and said he would see what the consequences of doing so anyway would be.

- Daniel Ricciardo has kept his sparkly helmet design used in Singapore last weekend – but stays within the one change rule as the basis of the design is close to what he regularly uses.

- Wet weather was a talking point for many due to the concerning forecast for the remainder of the race weekend. Both Mercedes drivers said they would welcome rain hitting in qualifying due to concerns over the dry deficit to the cars ahead.

- Renault is running with a tweaked livery this weekend, featuring Russian writing on the side of its car for the local subsidiary of team sponsor RCI Banque.

- The French manufacturer also revealed that its junior academy drivers – Jack Aitken, will be racing with tribute helmets to the late Anthoine Hubert this weekend. The design is an exact replica of Hubert’s helmet with their names added to the side.

- Bernie Ecclestone was in the paddock in Sochi on Friday, having been invited by the grand prix organisers as a guest. Ecclestone remains close to the project in Russia after playing an instrumental role in adding the race to the calendar back in 2014.

- Renault had an extra visitor in the garage during FP1, reporting that a bat had been spotted flying about. Daniil Kvy-bat, Cyril A-bat-eboul and Nobuharu Bat-sushita are three names coined that received groans of disapproval in the media centre.

- It was a good day for the championship leaders in both Formula 2 and Formula 3 as Nyck de Vries and Robert Shwartzman both took pole in their respective categories. Both can be crowned champion this weekend, with Shwartzman likely to clinch the title on Saturday morning in Sochi.

 

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