Mercedes upholds dominance in FP3 as Hamilton is fastest

There was no disputing Mercedes’ dominance in Sochi in FP3, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas once again leading the field in the final dress rehearsal before this afternoon’s qualifying.

Hamilton edged his teammate by 0.776s, but a solid effort by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz allowed the Spaniard to get within 0.776s of the pacesetter’s bast time.

    Russian Grand Prix Free Practice 3 – Results

Sochi’s weather held steady at the outset on Saturday, with 26°C and track temperatures a toasty 38.6°C , and with little chance of rain.

Went the session went green, the atmosphere remained silent with drivers in no hurry to head on to the track. Finally, McLaren’s chargers sprung into action, much to the pleasure of the impatient fans in the grandstands.

Gradually, traffic increased with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and then Bottas setting the early pace, the latter shod with a set of Pirelli’s softs.

The only driver conspicuously absent from the running after the first half hour was Verstappen, but the Dutchman finally emerged and lost no time getting up to speed, clocking in second on the soft tyre just 0.017s behind Bottas.

The Finn then lowered his own benchmark to 1m34.055s, a time successfully challenged by Hamilton who became the first driver in the session to break the 1m33s barrier, the six-time world champion edging his teammate by 0.776s.

As drivers ramped up their quali sims, Sainz snatched third from Verstappen, just 0.041s behind Bottas. The Spaniard’s performance inspired Racing Point’s Sergio Perez to dial in some speed, the Mexican setting the fourth fastest time also using the soft compound.

Verstappen’s next flyer produced a purple sector, but the Red Bull driver could not improve, while a great effort from Renault’s Esteban Ocon allowed the Frenchman to split the Sainz/Perez duo in P4.

Further back, Vettel was Ferrari’s fastest runner in P7, just heading Stroll, Kvyat and Ricciardo to close out the top ten.

Gasly led the second half of the field which included the usual suspects save for Alex Albon and Lando Norris who sat P19 and P20.

The Red Bull charger was on course for a spot among the top ten but an abuse of track limits called for a lap time deletion, while Norris will surely perform better in qualifying.

A front row lockout by the Mercs this afternoon seems like a slam dunk, unless someone can pull a white rabbit out their hat. Check back in two hours to find out!

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