Russell didn’t quite hook his opening salvo together in his ART Grand Prix-run car, but managed a 1m51.720s early in the session, as the majority of runners then spent half the 45-minute session testing the soft tyre.
Alexander Albon is the only driver who can stop Russell from winning the title, but struggled to put together a quick lap in the early running, with a couple of moments at Turn 14 and Turn 6-7 slowing his forward progress as he had to settle for ninth.
Also struggling was F2 debutant Dan Ticktum, who replaces Maximilian Gunther at Arden this weekend off the back of a second Macau Grand Prix win last week. He propped up the order, 2.5s off Russell’s fastest time.
His car appeared to drop fluid as he pulled out of the pits at the start of the session.
Behind Russell, Antonio Fuoco’s first flying lap was brilliant, and the Ferrari Academy driver steered his a Charouz-run car to second ahead of Campos driver Luca Ghiotto, the latter still searching for a first win of the season.
Honda protege Nirei Fukuzumi put Arden in the top four, ahead of Sochi polesitter Nyck de Vries, who ran wide at Turn 17 to ruin his follow-up lap for the Prema team.
Roberto Merhi – now with Campos after switching from MP for Sochi – headed new Haas F1 junior Louis Deletraz.
Following Deletraz, McLaren’s 2019 F1 driver Lando Norris took eighth after tumbling from an early session-topper, with Albon and Artem Markelov rounding out the top 10.
Markelov’s car appeared extremely lairy, with a number of off track excursions for the Russian driver likely in the last of his five seasons in the championship.
|1||8||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||1'51.720|
|2||21||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||1'51.884||0.164|
|3||14||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Racing||1'52.315||0.595|
|4||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||Arden International||1'52.323||0.603|
|5||4||Nyck de Vries||Prema Powerteam||1'52.386||0.666|
|6||15||Roberto Merhi||Campos Racing||1'52.395||0.675|
|7||20||Louis Deletraz||Charouz Racing System||1'52.518||0.798|
|10||1||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||1'52.940||1.220|
|11||7||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||1'53.012||1.292|
|12||18||Sergio Sette Camara||Carlin||1'53.037||1.317|
|14||2||Tadasuke Makino||RUSSIAN TIME||1'53.360||1.640|
|15||3||Sean Gelael||Prema Powerteam||1'53.398||1.678|
|18||10||Niko Kari||MP Motorsport||1'53.605||1.885|
|19||9||Dorian Boccolacci||MP Motorsport||1'53.875||2.155|
|20||11||Dan Ticktum||Arden International||1'54.317||2.597|