Ferrari maintained its advantage at the Sochi Autodrom with Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheet ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen. Vettel finished the session three tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
In Friday’s second practice session the quickest Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was almost seven tenths adrift of Vettel’s pace on ultrasoft tyres and while the Finn close the gap to the four-time champion in the qualifying runs of this morning’s final practice session Mercedes still struggled to match Ferrari, with Bottas ending the session 0.337s behind Vettel. Lewis Hamilton finished in fourth place with a time of 1:34.542, more than half a second behind the German.
Unlike most third practice sessions, in which teams reserve their qualifying simulations for the a three-lap run on the softest weekend compound at the very end of the session, final practice in Sochi was defined by a wealth of laps of the ultrasoft tyres as teams tried to plot the most effective tyre strategy for qualifying.
The circuit’s extremely low levels of degradation mean that it’s hard to get temperature into tyres – even the ultrasoft – and so drivers spent much of the session discovering at which point on a run their car would deliver the best time.
For Red Bull’s Max Verstappen that came on a third flyer after the half way point of the session. The Ducthman had been second best to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the early stages of the session but then he suddenly found an improvement of six tenths of a second to claim a fourth place he was only bumped out of late in the session when Hamilton put in his fastest lap
However, Verstappen’s improvement wasn’t enough to give Red Bull hope of mounting an assault on the top two rows in qualifying. The Dutchman finished the session almost 1.5s adrift of Vettel. Team-mate Ricciardo was further back in P8 more than 1.8s off the pace. The Australian also suffered a strange moment late in the session when he stopped on track with an apparent loss of power ony to quickly reset and get going again.
Sandwiched between the two Red Bulls were sixth–placed Felipe Massa of Williams and Nico Hulkenberg of Renault. Behind Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jr and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.
Hulkenberg’s team-mate Jolyon Palmer was the only driver who failed to set a time during the session as Renault decided to change his engine ahead of qualifying.
2017 Russian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.001s – 17
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.338s 0.337s 16
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:34.364s 0.363s 20
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.542s 0.541s 19
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:35.452s 1.451s 21
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1:35.471s 1.470s 17
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.662s 1.661s 15
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:35.830s 1.829s 24
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:36.164s 2.163s 20
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:36.556s 2.555s 19
11 Lance Stroll Williams 1:36.649s 2.648s 19
12 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:36.676s 2.675s 22
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.846s 2.845s 18
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:36.869s 2.868s 12
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:36.962s 2.961s 21
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:37.164s 3.163s 20
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:37.182s 3.181s 15
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:37.503s 3.502s 21
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:37.657s 3.656s 17
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault – – 4