Sochi (Russia) : Nico Hulkenberg topped the times for Force India in Friday’s delayed and curtailed opening free practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The German, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours race earlier this year, timed his best lap perfectly at the end of a session cut to only an hour’s action by a diesel spillage from a circuit cleaning vehicle.
Hulkenberg’s best lap in one minute and 44.395 seconds left him 0.052 seconds clear of nearest rival and compatriot Nico Rosberg of Mercedes with another German four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in third place.
On a cold morning with intermittent rain, the session offered few clues to performance as the diesel spillage left the Sochi Autodrom circuit in a treacherous and slippy condition.
Few cars ventured out until the final 20 minutes when successive laps on slick tyres began to improve the conditions, but the final order was not representative.
Rosberg’s Mercedes team-mate defending two-time world champion and current series leader Briton Lewis Hamilton was seventh quickest after a tentative session that saw him required to avoid the spinning Williams of Brazilian Felipe Massa at one stage and spin himself soon afterwards.
Mexican Sergio Perez was fourth in the second Force India ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso. —AFP