Mercedes returned to the top of the timesheets thanks to Nico Rosberg, who topped final practice by seven-tenths of a second ahead of Valtteri Bottas and teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The session was stopped with 20 minutes left to run when Carlos Sainz lost his Toro Rosso under braking on the entry towards Turn 13 and hit the inside wall, which propelled him straight into the tec-pro barriers.

His car wedged underneath the barriers after crashing at high speed, leaving the Spaniard stuck for a period of time while the Marshalls lifted the barriers to release him.

Thankfully, Sainz was extracted from the wreck and put on a stretcher then wheeled into a waiting ambulance, giving the cameras a thumbs up in the process.

At the beginning of the session, most of the drivers wasted no time in taking to the track to make up the waste of Friday’s practice sessions.

The field was split between tyre compounds in order to get an understanding of the tyre behaviours before qualifying and the race tomorrow. Bottas went to the top of the table early on the soft compound tyre with a 1:40.884 followed closely by his team-mate Felipe Massa, who had ERS troubles at the beginning of the session.

It took the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen 15 minutes before they appeared on the circuit, both drivers posting times four seconds off the pace and almost identical to each other.

Both Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers, along with Pastor Maldonado, Marcus Ericsson and Raikkonen all completed long runs on the super soft tyres, with no one lasting longer than 13 laps.

The Mercedes pair of Rosberg and Hamilton completed similar strategies, starting the session with the soft tyres, then making the switch half way through to the super softs to practice their qualifying laps.

Bottas and Massa had already made the switch to the grippy super softs at this point and were posting lap times below the 1:40 mark. Although it seemed to take the softer compound tyre an extra lap to warm up due to the smooth and slippery surface the new Sochi track provides.

Hamilton’s first run on the super soft tyres didn’t go quite to plan, as he locked up heavily into Turn two and gave the left front a flat spot. This caused trouble on his second and final run as he was only able to post the third quickest time, close to a second slower than his team-mates benchmark.

Qualifying at Sochi is scheduled to begin at 15:00 local time (GMT +3) on Saturday.

2015 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:38.561 15
2. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:39.287 + 0.726 17
3. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:39.363 + 0.802 13
4. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B 1:39.616 + 1.055 14
5. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:39.875 + 1.314 14
6. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B 1:39.917 + 1.356 14
7. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:40.581 + 2.020 12
8. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:40.767 + 2.206 13
9. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:41.200 + 2.639 11
10. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:41.229 + 2.668 14
11. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:41.358 + 2.797 15
12. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:42.297 + 3.736 11
13. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:42.371 + 3.810 14
14. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:42.450 + 3.889 14
15. Carlos Sainz es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:42.683 + 4.122 19
16. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:42.686 + 4.125 11
17. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:43.089 + 4.528 16
18. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:43.347 + 4.786 14
19. Roberto Merhi es Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B 1:46.767 + 8.206 19
20. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B 1:47.249 + 8.688 18

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas 

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Josh Kruse

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