FP3 has been red flagged after Carlos Sainz Jr. crashed violently. His Toro Rosso suffered a failure of the front brakes at turn 13 of the Sochi circuit, one of the fastest parts of the track. The paddock held its breath awaiting news from the crashsite and after 20 long minutes a sigh of relief could be heard when footage showed Sainz’ thumbs up as he was transported to the medical centre. His status for the rest of the weekend is up in the air as I write this article.
The session started out busy after Friday’s practices had been spoiled by rain and diesel. With clear skies all the drivers wanted to utilise every second available to get the setup right for qualifying and the race. Both the Ferrari drivers were the only ones who opted to stay in until the track cleared and after 15 minutes both Räikkonen and Vettel exited the pitlane.
Williams’ Bottas and Massa started out excellent on the long runs leading the field by more than two seconds. They were quickly joined in the top 5 by Lotus drivers Maldonado and Grosjean, the Frenchman who hadn’t driven a single lap at all on Friday.
When fitted with super softs Rosberg was the first to dive under the 1.40-mark at 1.38.561, again joined by Bottas when he fitted the softest of the two tires. Hamilton followed in third at a respectful 0.8 of a second behind his teammate and rival.
It was Max Verstappen who caused the first yellow flags when his Toro Rosso slid from under him in the last corner. The youngster was able to get his nose in the right direction and continued his long run.
Hülkenberg was the source of laughter when his engineer admitted he had not seen that his driver had exited his box to go play outside.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who earlier announced he would honour his 3 year contract with McLaren, managed to put their cars in the top ten.
With Sainz Jr. unlikely to participate further this weekend, 19 cars will take the track this afternoon to qualify for Sunday’s race. The Russian Grand Prix has been an eventful one thus far and with qualifying upon us the crowd will be on the edge of its seat again.
Naut van Osnabrugge