Hamilton and Rosberg show no sign of slowing down as both Mercedes drivers battled it out again, well ahead of the competition. Even though all drivers made small mistakes on the slippery track, Hamilton seems to have shed the bad luck that heckled him so far this season.
Sebastian Vettel was amongst the first drivers that exited the pitlane as soon as the lights turned green. His Friday practice got cut short by an electrical short cut in the engine. A gearbox change means that the four time world champion will receive a five place grid penalty for tomorrow so he will need a good qualifying session in order to keep a podium spot in sight.
The Russian tarmac was still slippery today. Max Verstappen and Jolyon Palmer made several little trips outside the white lines, warning all other drivers that caution was needed. It was Sergio Perez however who missed his breaking point and rolled off the track. When trying to rejoin the track the Mexican couldn’t quite make the turn and stopped his car to avoid damaging his front wing by touching the barrier. This caused a short Virtual Safety Car-situation and after a little push from the marshalls, Perez could get back on track.
After twenty minutes the first Mercedes showed up on track. The championship leader Nico Rosberg tried to set a competitive time in his first timed lap but made the same error under braking as Perez at turn 13. Rosberg did manage to get his car in reverse and promptly got back on track.
Hamilton’s first attempt was successful as he only needed two purple sectors to get to the top of the leaderboard. Rosberg quickly passed him even though the number 6 Mercedes went well wide in the last turn. Mercedes sat comfortably ahead of the field followed by Raikkonen, a full second behind the two, in third and the two Red Bulls behind him.
Grosjean was the third who couldn’t get his break path right and went straight off at turn 13. The Frenchman had a successful start of the season up until the Chinese grand prix where he struggled with the car. On Friday he could be heard on the radio complaining that there was something wrong with the car but he wasn’t able to exactly pinpoint what is was. Gunther Steiner, Haas F1 Team principal, later told the media that it wasn’t so much the car that was off but more so the team had troubles getting the tires up to the right temperature. He believed it was more a setup issue than anything other.
Carlos Sainz is getting the better of his teammate Verstappen so far this weekend. Sainz spent this session in and out the top ten. Max Verstappen followed him at a respectful half second for most of the session. A few setup changes payed off for Verstappen and on the final set of supersofts the gap diminished to a tenth of a second and even creeped past the Spaniard right before the end. A small mistake ended any counter possibility for Sainz. The Dutchman expressed before the weekend that a 7th position would we the highest achievable spot on Sunday. The weekend started slow for both drivers but things are looking up.
Jolyon Palmer has redeemed himself in this session. In FP1 he was nowhere near reserve driver Sirotkin, leaving a gap of 7 tenths of a second. During FP2 he could get near his teammate Magnussen. Renault seems to have found a solution in the setup and the 2014 GP2 champion could join Magnussen on the timesheet.
In the back it were the two Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson with two tenths between the two of them, indicating that the two drivers are getting the most out of the car. The fact that the Swiss based team is still around is nothing short of a miracle but at this point the team is losing out to both Manor drivers. A big contrast to fighting for points and the occasional podium, a few years ago.
Massa and Bottas put their Mercedes powered Williams on 5th and 6th without making a lot of fuss. The team eyes to be this weekend’s team to profit from any mistakes from either Mercedes or Ferrari. The team has overcome their pitstop troubles from last season by making a small alteration to the wheelnut. The team made the fastest stops in every race, needing only 2.1 seconds to change all four wheels in China.
Red Bull Racing couldn’t impress in the last session before qualifying, falling out of the top 10 and well behind it’s sister team Toro Rosso. On Friday the team seemed to be in a good position with both drivers well in the top 10 but overnight they seem to have lost that edge to their rivals behind them.
Mercedes is ahead of Ferrari and with the Vettel gearbox penalty the German team look to create a serious gap in the constructors championship. In little over an hour the drivers will go back on track for the qualifying session.
Russian Grand Prix FP3 Results:
|7||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1.38:133||22|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1.38:465||25|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||1.38:542||18|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1.38:622||23|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1.39:047||15|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1.39:162||16|