FP3: Hamilton and Mercedes in command in Sochi
It looks like Ferrari are going to have to dig deep if they are to prevent Mercedes taking pole in Russia this afternoon. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topped final practice, as Sebastian Vettel trailed in third, more than half a second behind his championship rival.
The final hour of running ahead of qualifying was completed in dry and sunny conditions and saw Kimi Raikkonen back up his Ferrari team mate in fourth, with Max Verstappen leading the Red Bull charge from Daniel Ricciardo in fifth – though both are set to start from near the back of the grid due to engine penalties.
After Verstappen, no one else could get within a second of Hamilton’s 1m 33.067s marker – a new outright track record for the Sochi Autodrom. Ricciardo aside, Charles Leclerc came closest, with an encouraging P7 for Sauber after his struggles with set-up on Friday.
Both Force Indias made the top ten, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez split by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, whose team mate Romain Grosjean survived a spin en route to 13th.
After their encouraging showing on Friday, Toro Rosso – having reverted back to their previous-spec Honda power units overnight – slipped down the order slightly. Pierre Gasly still managed 12th, while Brendon Hartley was sixteenth.
Grosjean's aforementioned spin and few minor off-track moments aside, the session was largely incident free. Vettel played a role in two moments of note, however - one when he rejoined the circuit unexpectedly close alongside Ricciardo, and another when he was forced to abandon his Ferrari at the end of the pit lane, having just missed the cut for a final lap at the hour's end.
Stay tuned for qualifying in less than two hours’ time – with the Red Bulls, the Toro Rossos, and Fernando Alonso all taking grid penalties, and many drivers probably keen to avoid starting the race on the hypersoft tyre if possible – it’s set to be a fascinating session in terms of both strategy and speed!