Hamilton tops FP3, Mercedes look supreme


Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets, from team-mate Nico Rosberg in the final practice session of the weekend, as the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS squad dominated ahead of qualifying for the 2016 Russian Grand Prix.

The Brit set the leading time of 1m36.403s with just two minutes of the session remaining after team-mate Rosberg had retreated to the pits. It was a session that Mercedes controlled from start to finish, with times at the top switching between the Silver Arrows pair throughout FP3.

Early on Hamilton took the initial lead on the teams first runs, with a time of 1m38.217s on the super-soft tyre, before Rosberg countered that with a time of 1m37.722s. But the tussle did not stop there as the Brit fought back with a time of 1m37.325s, before the German put in a storming lap to reclaim the top spot.

That scenario continued later in the session when the Mercedes duo came out on a new set of the super-soft rubber. Rosberg put together a brilliant lap to set a supreme time of 1m36.783s, four tenths quicker than last years pole time, following a mighty middle sector form the German. Hamilton tried but failed to beat his team-mate, the Brit one tenth of the pace after a poor final sector, as he struggled with the W07.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers out on track at the start of the FP3 session, having missed some vital running in FP2 on Friday afternoon when the SF16-H lost all power, the German was clearly making up for lost time. The Scuderia Ferrari man initially went out on the super-soft compound tyre, and began racking up the laps, on a differing strategy to most during this session. In the final five minutes of the session, the German went quickest overall in the middle sector, it was looking promising for the Ferrari man, but he could only mange to go third overall behind the two Mercedes runners, two tenths down on lead man Rosberg.

Kimi Raikkonen finished the session in fourth place, seven tenths down on his team-mate. The Finn remained in the pits until twenty minutes into the session, and had looked promising on his final run in the FP3 session, but a poor final sector from the Ferrari man saw him understeer wide, ruining his exit and lap.

Felipe Massa had a strong session for the Williams Martini Racing team, who improved throughout the session. The Brazilian took fifth place, just ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, just seven-hundredths between them.

Max Verstappen was next up in the Toro Rosso, with a strong final lap that launched the young Dutchman into seventh place ahead of Jenson Button in the McLaren Honda. The Brit spent the first half of the session in the pits following his initial installation lap, with a brief spell out of the car which the team advised was just part of the schedule. The 2009 world champion finally emerged on track on the soft tyre, with 35 minutes of the session gone, and immediately put the MP4-31 into tenth spot, before improving later in the session to finish seventh. Team-mate Fernando Alonso however, was unable to maintain the pace of Button, finishing further down the order in twelfth position, four tenths off the pace of the Brit.

Carlos Sainz Jr was next up in the second of the Toro Rosso runners, ahead of Sergio Perez in the first of the Sahara Force India machines. The Mexican had an eventful FP3 session after out braking himself when carrying too much speed into Turn 13. Perez tried to perform a u-turn to correct his mistake, but ran out of space and the Force India came to a halt the wrong way around against the wall. The virtual safety car was deployed momentarily, whilst the marshals pushed the VJM09 back to the pits. Perez had gone quicker than anyone in the first sector prior to that incident.

Turn 13 proved to be a problem corner for a number of drivers during the session. Felipe Nasr, Romain Grosjean, and not to be left out, even Rosberg and Hamilton all had moments there during FP3. Whilst at Turn 2, a bollard was put in place to make sure drivers could not run off track and re-join with no time loss.

After initially leading proceedings on the super-soft tyre, Daniel Ricciardo finished down the order in eleventh place in the Red Bull Racing car, just two hundredths of a second up on Alonso, but fourth tenths quicker than team-mate and local boy Daniil Kvyat, who will no doubt be hoping for a better performance in qualifying later today.

Nico Hulkenberg finished in a disappointing fourteenth place in the second Force India, ahead of Esteban Gutierrez in the first Haas F1 team runner, the American squad continuing to struggle after their great start to the season. Kevin Magnussen was next up in the first of the Renault Sport F1 team cars, ahead of Romain Grosjean and team-mate Jolyon Palmer, who has been suffering from snap oversteer in the RS16 all weekend.

Manor Racing team driver Rio Haryanto, who was strong at the Sochi Autodrom track in the GP2 Series last season, outperformed team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, with the two Sauber cars of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr completing the field.

In a session dominated by the two Mercedes drivers, the battle for pole position will likely be between Hamilton and Rosberg during the qualifying session later today, with nothing to choose between the two team-mates.

Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:36.403 17
2 6 Nico Rosberg ROS Mercedes 1:36.471 +0.068s 22
3 5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari 1:37.007 +0.604s 28
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen RAI Ferrari 1:37.727 +1.324s 14
5 19 Felipe Massa MAS Williams 1:37.918 +1.515s 16
6 77 Valtteri Bottas BOT Williams 1:37.985 +1.582s 16
7 33 Max Verstappen VES Toro Rosso 1:38.133 +1.730s 22
8 22 Jenson Button BUT McLaren 1:38.260 +1.857s 14
9 55 Carlos Sainz SAI Toro Rosso 1:38.465 +2.062s 25
10 11 Sergio Perez PER Force India 1:38.542 +2.139s 18
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo RIC Red Bull Racing 1:38.622 +2.219s 23
12 14 Fernando Alonso ALO McLaren 1:38.633 +2.230s 12
13 26 Daniil Kvyat KVY Red Bull Racing 1:39.047 +2.644s 15
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Force India 1:39.162 +2.759s 16
15 21 Esteban Gutierrez GUT Haas 1:39.230 +2.827s 18
16 20 Kevin Magnussen MAG Renault 1:39.238 +2.835s 16
17 8 Romain Grosjean GRO Haas 1:39.239 +2.836s 15
18 30 Jolyon Palmer PAL Renault 1:39.589 +3.186s 19
19 88 Rio Haryanto HAR Manor 1:39.599 +3.196s 19
20 94 Pascal Wehrlein WEH Manor 1:39.663 +3.260s 18
21 9 Marcus Ericsson ERI Sauber 1:39.740 +3.337s 23
22 12 Felipe Nasr NAS Sauber 1:39.898 +3.495s 19

Source: FOM