Sochi, FP3: Leclerc heads Ferrari one-two in final practice for Russian GP
Hamilton 3rd, Bottas 4th
Charles Leclerc claimed top spot in the final practice session for the Russian Grand Prix, beating team-mate Sebastian Vettel by three tenths of a second as Ferrari set the pace at the Sochi Autodrom.
Leclerc led the way in the opening phase of the session with the Monegasque racer using soft compound Pirelli tyres to set a time of 1:33.906. That put him 0.171s ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas who ran on the same compound during the first half hour of the session. Third place ahead of the qualifying simulations wen to FP2’s fastest man, Max Verstappen, though in the first half of final practice the Dutch driver restricted himself to medium tyres. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was four tenths of a second off Leclerc’s early pace, with a time again set on soft tyres, while Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari was 0.609 adrift of his team-mate.
Further back there was trouble for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The home favourite pulled over at the side of the track a little over 20 minutes into the session, with the Russian reporting and engine problem. All-four Honda powered drivers are taking PU-related penalties this weekend, and Kvyat’s FP3 failure was his second of the weekend so far.
Ferrari were the first team to bolt on new soft tyres for qualifying runs, with Leclerc and Vettel taking to the track with a little over 20 minutes left in the session.
Leclerc’s improvement was a marked one, with the 21-year-old cutting 1.2s off his earlier time to set a new benchmark of 1:32.733. Vettel struggled to match that on his first run and he took P2, four tenths of a second behind his team-mate. A second run would eventually elevate the German to second place, though he was still three tenths adrift of Leclerc at the flag.
Third place in the session went to Hamilton with the title leader setting a best time of 1:33.129, 0.396 off the P1 pace and more than two tenths ahead of fourth-placed team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen finished in fifth place, by virtue of his medium-tyre time from the first half of the session.
The Dutch driver went out for his quali sim in the final quarter of an hour but a messy lap saw him bounce across the kerbs in Turn 2 and then he suffered a spin in Turn 13. He retreated to the Red Bull garage and didn’t appear on track again in the final minutes of the session.
Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas, with the Frechman around eight hundredths of a second behind Verstappen but 0.06s ahead of the second Red Bull of Alex Albon who was making up for time lost in FP2 on Friday.
Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for the works Renault team ahead of the Renault-powered McLaren of Lando Norris on a morning on which it was announced that McLaren will move to Mercedes power in 2021. The final top-10 place was taken by Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas.
|01||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari SF90||1:32.733||14|
|02||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari SF90||1:33.049||15|
|03||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes W10||1:33.129||19|
|04||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes W10||1:33.354||18|
|05||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Honda RB15||1:34.227||12|
|06||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari VF-19||1:34.308||17|
|07||Alex Albon||Red Bull Honda RB15||1:34.371||21|
|08||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault RS19||1:34.421||13|
|09||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault MCL34||1:34.527||15|
|10||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari VF-19||1:34.546||15|
|11||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:34.564||16|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault RS19||1:34.586||14|
|13||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault MCL34||1:34.607||18|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Ferrari C38||1:34.766||15|
|15||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point Mercedes RP19||1:34.860||7|
|16||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Mercedes RP19||1:34.898||16|
|17||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Ferrari C38||1:35.714||19|
|18||George Russell||Williams Mercedes FW42||1:36.011||18|
|19||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:36.081||4|
|20||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes FW42||1:36.942||19|