Sochi, FP3: Mercedes continue to set the pace
As Ferrari slip back in Russia
Lewis Hamilton went quickest in final practice for the Russian Grand Prix, with the Briton breaking the Sochi Autodrom track record to beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas 0.254s. Ferrari, meanwhile, took third and fourth places, with Sebastian Vettel marginally ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, but the German title contender ended the session six tenths of a second adrift of Hamilton.
Vettel set the pace in a quiet opening phase of the hour-long session, with the German claiming P1 with a lap of 1:33.859. However, his spell at the top of the order was brought to a swift end when the Mercedes drivers took to the track some 20 minutes into the session.
Bottas’ first lap earned him P2, just 0.082 behind Vettel, but with his next run the Finn was rewarded with P1 when he set a time of 1:33.809, five hundredths of a second clear of the Ferrari driver. Bottas was then dislodged by team-mate Hamilton who moved to top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:33.664. He then improved to a time of 1:33.496 before returning to the pit lane to prepare for the qualifying simulations.
And when the field bolted on new sets of hypersofts for those runs there was no touching Mercedes for pace.
Bottas first reclaimed top sport with a good lap of 1:33.321, but he was soon eclipsed by Hamilton who set a time of 1:33.067 to move 0.254s ahead of his team-mate.
Vettel, pushing to find time, went wide on his opening hot lap and while he managed to claw some time out of the same set of hypersofts over the next laps he couldn’t get close to Hamilton’s time and eventually settled for a time of 1:33.667, a full 0.600s behind his title rival. Räikkönen also failed to find the pace necessary to challenge Mercedes and he ended the session in P4, 0.021s behind his team-mate.
Fifth and sixth places in the session were annexed by Red Bull’s Mac Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, with the Dutch driver a sizeable 0.457 ahead of his team-mate.
Both Red Bulls will take engine-related grid penalties for tomorrow’s race and this morning also elected to take new gearboxes. With back-of-the-grid starts in prospect both drivers accented race preparation over qualifying pace.
It was a similar tale at Toro Rosso and McLaren, with engine-related penalties to be taken by both squads. Pierre Gasly made the most of his team’s reversion to an older-spec Honda engine to finish the session in P13, three spots ahead of team-mate Brendon Hartley, while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne ended the session in P19, marginally ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso who was almost four seconds off Hamilton’s pace.
With the Red Bulls set to take penalties, the potential exists for a row three start or better for one of the grid’s midfield squads and in FP3 it was Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who staked the best claim. The Monegasque driver finished in P7, 0.181s ahead of Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon. Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas, 0.011s behind Ocon, and the final top 10 spot was taken by Ocon’s team-mate Sergio Pérez who finished just under a tenth of a second behind Magnussen.
|01||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:33.067||13|
|02||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:33.321||16|
|05||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Tag Heuer||1:33.937||11|
|06||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Tag Heuer||1:34.394||14|
|07||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||1:34.628||15|
|08||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:34.809||16|
|09||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:34.820||15|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:34.916||14|
|11||Carlos Sainz||Renault F1||1:34.988||13|
|12||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso Honda||1:35.125||21|
|13||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:35.185||17|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault F1||1:35.213||12|
|15||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:35.370||16|
|16||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso Honda||1:36.033||22|
|17||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||1:36.071||16|
|18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:36.274||20|
|19||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||1:36.597||14|
|20||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||1:36.992||21|