Sebastian Vettel

Sochi FP3: Ferrari dominate

Sebastian Vettel

Formula 1 front-runner Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari ahead of champions Mercedes in the final free practice session of the Russian Grand Prix weekend on Saturday.

The German, who is seven points clear of Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton after winning two of the first three races, lapped the Sochi street circuit with a fastest time of 1: 34.001 seconds on the ultrasoft tyres.

Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen was second on the timesheets, 0.337 of a second slower than the four-times world champion, with compatriot Valtteri Bottas third for Mercedes.

The Ferrari drivers led both sessions on Friday, with Bottas again quicker than triple world champion Hamilton who was half a second adrift of the top time.

Mercedes have led every lap in Sochi since the race made its debut on the grand prix calendar after the 2014 Winter Olympics, with Hamilton winning the first two races and now-retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg triumphant last year.

The champions have also started the last 18 races on pole position but that remarkable run may end in Saturday’s later qualifying unless Mercedes are holding something back.

“I think Mercedes will be fine; it’s a circuit that suits them, so they will be strong,” Vettel had said after Friday practice.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth fastest with Brazilian Felipe Massa sixth for Williams.

Britain’s Jolyon Palmer did just four laps but failed to set a time after Renault changed his chassis overnight as a precautionary measure, following an exhaust leak.

The team will also replace the car’s engine before qualifying.

Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom – Free Practice 3, Best Lap Times

15Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:34.001 17
27Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI1:34.338+0.337s16
377Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:34.364+0.363s20
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:34.542+0.541s19
533Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:35.452+1.451s21
619Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:35.471+1.470s17
727Nico HulkenbergRENAULT1:35.662+1.661s15
83Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:35.830+1.829s24
955Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO1:36.164+2.163s20
1020Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:36.556+2.555s19
1118Lance StrollWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:36.649+2.648s19
1231Esteban OconFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:36.676+2.675s22
1326Daniil KvyatTORO ROSSO1:36.846+2.845s18
1414Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA1:36.869+2.868s12
1511Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:36.962+2.961s21
168Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:37.164+3.163s20
172Stoffel VandoorneMCLAREN HONDA1:37.182+3.181s15
189Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI1:37.503+3.502s21
1994Pascal WehrleinSAUBER FERRARI1:37.657+3.656s17
2030Jolyon PalmerRENAULT  4