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Formula One set to hold inaugural, and emotional, Russian Grand Prix

Formula One set to hold inaugural, and emotional, Russian Grand Prix
The Marussia car of injured driver Jules Bianchi sits in the garage during a Formula One practice session Friday at the Sochi Autodrom in Sochi, Russia. (Srdjan Suki / EPA)

If there's one word to capture the mood of Formula One as the series races Sunday in Russia, it might be "unsettled."

Already upset by the crash of Jules Bianchi last weekend during the Japanese Grand Prix that left the French driver with severe head injuries, Formula One this weekend is holding the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at a new track.

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It's the Sochi Autodrom, a 3.63-mile course laid out in the area of southwestern Russia along the Black Sea coast that was used for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Until practice began Friday, Formula One's drivers mostly knew how to navigate the circuit only by having used computer simulators.

Regardless, current championship points leader Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes team posted the fastest time in the second of the day's two practice sessions.

Kevin Magnussen of the McLaren team was second, followed by two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg trails Hamilton by a slim 10 points with four races left this season. After Russia, the next race is the U.S. Grand Prix on Nov. 2 at the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas.

Before practice, Bianchi's Marussia team said it would compete with only one car this weekend, driven by Bianchi's teammate Max Chilton of Britain, and not use a replacement driver for Bianchi's car.

"I don't know how to put into words how truly devastated I am by what has happened to Jules," Chilton said in a statement. "It is going to be a very emotional weekend for the whole team, but we will try to get through it and keep praying for Jules."

In a Twitter post Friday, Hamilton said: "I'm praying like crazy for Jules."

The 53-lap Russian Grand Prix starts Sunday at 4 a.m. PDT.

Follow @PeltzLATimes for more motor racing news

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