It was business as usual for the majority of Formula One during the opening practice session ahead of the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, with the obvious exception of Marussia.
Just five days after Jules Bianchi was involved in an accident during the race in Japan that has left the Frenchman fighting for his life, as a mark of respect the team have opted to run only Max Chilton over the course of the weekend.
Ahead of the first sight of the Sochi Autodrom, and despite placing reserve Alexander Rossi on standby to deputise, Marussia said their decision was “the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend”.
The team, however, have still prepared the second car, which is to sit on Bianchi’s side of the garage for the remainder of the weekend, and with his name over the entrance.
It is understood to have been a tough decision to make for sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth, the latter remaining at Bianchi’s bedside at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi.
Chilton expressed himself to be “truly devastated” with regard to Bianchi’s situation after the 25-year-old sustained brain injuries from a high-speed collision at Suzuka with a recovery vehicle.
Despite that, along with the other 20 drivers this weekend, Chilton returned to the cockpit of his car as all attempted to put behind them the traumatic events of the race at Suzuka.
Unsurprisingly, it was championship-chasing Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton who led the way, as they have done virtually all season long.
On the back of three consecutive victories which has allowed him to open up a 10-point lead in the drivers’ championship, Hamilton had to settle for second best to Rosberg by just 0.065 seconds.
The latest Hermann Tilke-designed track, that winds its way through the Olympic Park central to the winter Games earlier this year, does not appear too technically demanding.
For the fans in evidence, they certainly saw plenty of action as the drivers completed numerous laps to ensure they are fully up to speed with its nuances.
The best of Rosberg’s 29 laps was a one minute 42.311secs, with Hamilton in close attendance, aborting one lap in which it appeared he would go quicker.
Jenson Button, further highlighting McLaren’s recent improvement, was a close third as the veteran Briton was 0.196secs adrift.
With team-mate Kevin Magnussen fifth quickest, the duo sandwiched Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who finished four tenths of a second off the pace.
Behind Force India’s Sergio Perez in sixth was Russia’s home hope in Daniil Kvyat in his Toro Rosso, but who next year will be promoted to Red Bull as replacement for Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel.
The four-times champion, whose reign is due to come to an end, was a lowly 14th, just over two seconds back, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo two places and 0.6secs ahead.
Aside from the Mercedes pair, Ricciardo is the only other driver who can win the title this season, with the Australian 73 points behind Hamilton.
Another Russian in Sauber reserve Sergey Sirotkin was given his race-weekend debut and finished 17th, 2.721secs behind Rosberg.
As for the lone Marussia, Chilton finished bottom of the pile, almost five seconds down.