Leclerc fastest in first practice for Russia grand prix

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) –


Charles Leclerc showed no evidence of a 'Singapore sling' hangover to top the times in Friday?s opening free practice for this weekend?s Russian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver, who was deprived of a third consecutive victory in last Sunday?s Singapore race by team-mate Sebastian Vettel, regained the ascendancy on a dry morning at the Sochi Autodrom.

Having expressed his regret for a radio rant at his team following the Singapore setback, when Ferrari used pit stop strategy to help Vettel, Leclerc was his usual calm self as he clocked a best lap in one minute 34.462 seconds ahead of his great rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

The Dutchman was 0.082 seconds behind Leclerc, but 0.5 seconds clear of third-placed Vettel in the second Ferrari and the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who reported brake problems and struggled to put a clean lap together.

Bottas suffered a damaged rear wing at the end of the session when his car?s Drag Reduction System (DRS) failed.

The two Mercedes remained on medium tyres, however, while their rivals were running on soft compound rubber.

After giving vent to his frustrations last Sunday, Leclerc was more diplomatic ahead of the first session at the Black Sea resort track, built round the 2014 Olympic Park facilities.

"I believe my reaction was well over what it should be and that shows that I?ve still got a lot to learn," he said. "In these situations, there was absolutely no need to be like this.

"The team has done the right thing -- we finished first and second. We wouldn?t have finished first and second with another strategy.

"In the car, it?s always very difficult. There?s a lot of adrenalin. I wake up in the morning thinking about victory. I go to sleep thinking about victory...

"I just need to control myself more in these situations and just shut up instead of speaking on the radio."

Red Bull new boy Alex Albon was sixth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and his Renault team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who crashed and broke his car?s rear wing at Turn Five at the end of the session.

Sergio Perez was eighth for Racing Point ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas.