Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets as Daniel Ricciardo came in second, surprisingly, on a morning disrupted by a number of accidents in the Russian GP first practice; while Lewis Hamilton finished down in 19th on a quiet start to his potentially record-equalling weekend.
Hamilton is only one win away from matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record of 91 this weekend but the six-time world champion was only 19th here at the Sochi Autodrom.
Bottas who has now emerged fastest in six consecutive P1s set the pace with a 1:34.923 – half a second clear of the in-form Ricciardo, who impressively beat former Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen by a tenth in the Renault.
Hamilton, meanwhile, faster than only Nicholas Latifi, didn’t post a representative time on the soft tyres and finished almost three seconds off the pace.
Latifi’s crash at Turn 10 led to a red flag with Carlos Sainz also having a spin and shunt in the McLaren earlier in the disrupted session.
Mercedes, who are undefeated in Russia, also had issues.
Bottas and Hamilton had big lock-ups and the Englishman suffering a flat spot to his tyres. Nonetheless, they still appear as the strongest contender.
Red Bull insisted coming into the weekend that they feared dropping back into the midfield and the very early signs suggest that may well be the case, with Renault, in particular, a threat on a high-speed circuit.
Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll had a good first practice for Racing Point, with both in the top five.
Esteban Ocon finished sixth in the other Renault, while AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat out-paced Red Bull’s Alex Albon, who comes into the weekend off the back of his maiden F1 podium at Mugello.
Sebastian Vettel also ensured Ferrari had a car in the top-10 while Monza race-winner Pierre Gasly beat Charles Leclerc to 11th position.
McLaren didn’t have a particularly competitive Practice one all thanks to a disrupted session to Sainz and Lando Norris who finished outside the top-10.