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Valtteri Bottas led teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets as Mercedes dominated the opening day of Formula One practice for the Russian Grand Prix, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set to start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.

Bottas, who led Hamilton in both of Friday’s sessions, ended the day with a fastest time of one minute 33.593 seconds, with the Briton just 0.044 seconds behind his team mate. Hamilton’s hopes of finally clinching a landmark 100th win and possibly retaking the championship lead received a boost, with Red Bull opting to fit title rival and championship leader Verstappen’s car with a fresh engine that triggered penalties.

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The Dutchman, who leads Hamilton by five points in the overall standings and was already carrying a three-place grid penalty for a crash that took both drivers out of the last race in Monza, was third and sixth quickest, respectively, in Friday’s two sessions. Bottas, a Sochi specialist who took his maiden Formula One victory at the track in 2017, is targeting his first win of the season.

But the 32-year-old, who is joining Alfa Romeo next season and has not won since last year’s race in Russia, said he would be prepared to “take one for the team” and let Hamilton win if the situation arose. Mercedes, 18 points clear of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, have won all seven races held in Sochi since the 2014 Winter Olympic venue first hosted a grand prix that year.

Pierre Gasly ended Friday’s running third quickest for AlphaTauri, but the Frenchman lost his front wing after clattering over the kerbs in the closing seconds of the session. Lando Norris, who completed a one-two for McLaren behind race winner Daniel Ricciardo at the last race in Italy, was fourth quickest ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

Carlos Sainz was seventh for Ferrari ahead of Fernando Alonso in his Alpine and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel. Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari, who like Verstappen will start from the back after a power unit change, rounded out the top 10.

Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Alfa Romeo heavily at the Turn 9 complex, forcing a nine-minute halt to the session. Hamilton also ran into one of his pitcrew after overshooting his marks while stopping.

Kimi Raikkonen returned for Alfa Romeo after missing the last two races having tested positive for COVID-19. He ended Friday’s running 12th.

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