Defending Formula 1 champions Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in preparation for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton narrowly outpaced teammate Nico Rosberg by less than one-tenth of a second in final practice.

With nobody appearing to bother the top two, the two Silver Arrows exchanged the lead throughout the one-hour session until Hamilton managed to secure the top spot in the closing stages, clocking a 1:36.403 to edge Rosberg by 0.068 seconds.

Ferrari was best of the rest with Sebastian Vettel third-fastest, albeit some six-tenths behind Hamilton. A further 0.7 seconds behind was his teammate Kimi Räikkönen.

The two Williams drivers matched each other’s pace throughout the session, with Felipe Massa emerging fifth-fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas, 1.5 seconds off the lead.

Behind them formed a mixed scrap for what will theoretically be the final spots in Q3, which looks set to be a scrap between Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Force India and McLaren.

Max Verstappen answered his Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz’s pace by outpacing the Spaniard for the first time this weekend. Verstappen finished the session seventh-fastest, two positions and three-tenths of a second quicker than Sainz. The pair sandwich Jenson Button’s McLaren in eighth, while the sister MP4-30 of Fernando Alonso was twelfth-fastest.

Sergio Pérez showed good pace for Force India to grab tenth spot tenth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo; their respective sister cars Nico Hülkenberg and Daniil Kvyat were fourteenth and thirteenth-fastest. Hülkenberg, in particular, struggled to match his teammate’s pace in the session.

The Haas-Ferraris and the Renaults continued their close battle on the lower positions on the timesheets, swapping positions constantly before Positions 15-18 were finally settled in the order of Esteban Gutiérrez, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer.

The Manor Racing cars outpaced both Saubers in the session, with Rio Haryanto ahead of Pascal Wehrlein – the latter continued his difficult weekend although he was less than 0.1 seconds slower than the Indonesian driver. Over at Sauber, Felipe Nasr’s new chassis continued to give him no joy, finishing slowest of all behind teammate Marcus Ericsson.

Drivers spent the session doing their qualifying simulations with Turn 13 proving tricky as a number of drivers went off the track there.

Qualifying starts at 15:00 local time (GMT +3).

Driver Team / Entry Result Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:36.403 17
2. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid + 0.068 22
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 0.604 28
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 1.324 14
5. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 1.515 16
6. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 1.582 16
7. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 1.730 22
8. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 1.857 14
9. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 2.062 25
10. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 2.139 18
11. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 2.219 23
12. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 2.230 12
13. Daniil Kvyat ru Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 2.644 15
14. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 2.759 16
15. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 2.827 18
16. Kevin Magnussen dk Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 2.835 16
17. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 2.836 15
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 3.186 19
19. Rio Haryanto id Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 3.196 19
20. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 3.260 18
21. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 3.337 23
22. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 3.495 19

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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Ahmad Shallouf

Contributing Writer at MotorsportM8