Charles Leclerc reclaimed his standing as the fastest man at the Sochi Autodrom, topping the Russian Grand Prix’s final practice session by three-tenths of a second from Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.
With Leclerc looking likely to claim his fourth consecutive pole position Mercedes struggled to put up a fight, with Lewis Hamilton initially doubtful over the team radio that closing a gap of 1.1 seconds to Leclerc was possible.
Hamilton managed to close the gap to 0.3 seconds by the end of the session, going faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas for the first time this weekend.
After being the fastest in the second practice session, Max Verstappen fought to find pace on his medium Pirelli tyres which Red Bull Racing decided to use for most of the session. A change to softs saw the Dutchman fly over the kerbs coming out of Turn 2, then spin his RB15 at Turn 13, luckily only lighting touching the barriers and avoiding any major damage.
Verstappen tamed his RB15 to finish fifth behind Bottas, although 1.5 seconds off the pace.
Romain Grosjean spilt the Red Bulls and took sixth for the Haas F1 Team ahead of Alexander Albon who, like teammate Verstappen, will drop five grid places thanks to Honda power unit changes.
McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed ninth behind Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg with Kevin Magnussen rounding out the top ten in the second Haas.
Home fans will be disappointed with Daniil Kvyat suffering his second engine issue of the weekend, seeing his Torro Rosso pulling over 21 minutes into the session. The Russian driver, who is already due to start the race from the back of the grid due to power unit updates, is unlikely to run in qualifying to receive a new engine for Sunday.
The forecasted rain is yet to make an appearance, perhaps it will arrive in time for qualifying.
|FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3494|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap621||Laps|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:32.733||14|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:33.049||+ 0.316||15|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:33.129||+ 0.396||19|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:33.354||+ 0.621||18|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:34.227||+ 1.494||12|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:34.308||+ 1.575||17|
|7.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:34.371||+ 1.638||21|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:34.421||+ 1.688||13|
|9.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:34.527||+ 1.794||15|
|10.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:34.546||+ 1.813||15|
|11.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:34.564||+ 1.831||16|
|12.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:34.586||+ 1.853||14|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:34.607||+ 1.874||18|
|14.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:34.766||+ 2.033||15|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:34.860||+ 2.127||7|
|16.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:34.898||+ 2.165||16|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:35.714||+ 2.981||19|
|18.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:36.011||+ 3.278||18|
|19.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:36.081||+ 3.348||4|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:36.942||+ 4.209||19|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari