Vettel, Hamilton Lead Russian Grand Prix Practices On Friday As Mercedes Looks Like Favorites To Win Sunday’s Race

The two best drivers in Formula One this season were the top two drivers on the speed charts in the two practice sessions around the Sochi circuit on Friday. Heading into Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by 40 points in the standings. Vettel, paced the opening practice session of the day while Hamilton was quickest in the second and final one later on.

Vettel, turned a lap of 1:34.488-seconds in his No. 5 Ferrari in session No. 1 which put him P1 on the timing charts. Max Verstappen was second with a time of 1:34.538-seconds in his No. 33 Red Bull Renault. Behind them were the Mercedes duo of Hamilton (1:34.818-seconds) and last year’s winner Valtteri Bottas (1:34.999-seconds). Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top five in being fifth overall with lap of 1:35.524-seconds. 

In the second session, Hamilton and Mercedes put on the faster tires and set a blazing lap of 1:33.385-seconds in his No. 44 Mercedes. His teammate Bottas made it a 1-2 day with a time of 1:33.584-seconds. Red Bull went 3-4 after the Mercedes teammates as Verstappen was third overall (1:33.827-seconds) with Ricciardo fourth (1:33.844-seconds).

Vettel (:133.928-seconds). rounded out the top five. He also spun during the session too.

Mercedes Favorites

It appears that this may be a race for the Mercedes team to keep their stranglehold on Russian victories for another year. Since F1 started coming to Sochi in 2014, Mercedes have won every race. Hamilton won in 2014 and 2015 while Nico Rosberg (2016) and Bottas (2017) won after. With being 1-2 on the quicker tires in the final session on Friday and having won four of the last five races this season, it appears that this may be Hamilton’s race to lose.

He’s finished in the top two in three of his four Russian Grand Prix starts. He has six consecutive top two finishes on the season and seven in the last eight races overall. Bottas, has just one podium finish in his last four starts on the season and only two in the last eight too. He did win last year but was 12th in 2015 and fourth in 2016.

The Ferrari’s seemed slower than Mercedes too as Vettel was only first and fifth respectively while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was seventh and sixth himself. Vettel, was 0.543-seconds off pace in the final session to Hamilton. That’s a big gap to make up. Plus, Vettel has just two top two finishes in his last five starts on the year and none since his win in Belgium

Add to that the Red Bull’s were quicker but will be coming from the back and you get while this could be a Hamilton and Bottas 1-2 day on Sunday.

Verstappen, is coming off of a second place run in Singapore and has two podiums in his last three starts on the year. But, the Red Bull driver has yet to score a finish better than fifth in Russia. Ricciardo’s best Russian Grand Prix finish is seventh as three of his four finishes there are outside of the top 10. He also hasn’t scored a podium finish since his win in Monaco (9 races ago) and has just one top five finish even in the last six races.

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