It was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton that topped the time sheets ahead of this weekend’ inaugural Russian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes pair was the class of the field in the first session in the morning as Nico Rosberg led teammate Lewis Hamilton who was closely followed by the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
As you would expect with a new circuit the track was extremely slippery with many drivers leaving the circuit as the session progressed. Jenson Button has an uncharacteristic spin at Turn 8. The opening stages were not kind to the team that only needs to score twenty-five points this weekend to win the constructors’ championship, both Hamilton and Rosberg complained over the radio of vibrations.
Valtteri Bottas’ session ended in bizarre fashion. The tyre blankets in the garaged essentially cooked his tyres as the tyre blanket overheated, the Fin was unable to rejoin the circuit for the last ten minutes of the session.
The crowd had two Russian drivers to cheer on in the opening session, as well as Daniil Kvyat who finished the morning seventh fastest, Sergey Sirotkin made his Grand Prix debut for Sauber stepping in for Esteban Gutierrez. Sirotkin set a time good enough for seventeenth and completed twenty two laps of his home circuit.
Red Bull had a quiet morning with Sebastian Vettel in fourteenth and Daniel Ricciardo slightly higher up in twelfth.
Free Practice 2 is where we really saw what Lewis Hamilton was made of. The Brit set a stunning lap that was 0.864 faster than second place man Kevin Magnussen and almost one second clear of teammate Nico Rosberg.
Just like this morning it was Jenson Button who set the early pace, however it was not long until the Mercedes began to show what they had up their sleeve.
Hamilton and Rosberg began to trade fastest times however the McLaren team showed that they too had the pace to challenge.
Just as it was looking to be a straight fight between Mercedes and McLaren, Alonso set a time that was third fastest, the Spaniard continues to show the improvements that Ferrari have made since returning from the summer break. Alonso would eventually go on to finish the session in third place with teammate Kimi Raikkonen in eleventh and struggling with his brakes.
— Kimi Räikkönen (@K_RaikkonenF1) October 9, 2014
The story of the day has to be the improvements that McLaren have made. Kevin Magnussen who celebrated his twenty-second birthday last weekend at Suzuka has more reason to be cheerful with his second place finish this afternoon.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 10, 2014
Red Bull’s woes carried over into the afternoon session as Daniel Ricciardo’s stricken Red Bull brought out the red flag in the closing stages. The Australian finished the day in thirteenth place with Ferrari bound Vettel coming home in ninth, one place below the man that will replace him at Red Bull next season Daniil Kvyat.
It was also a struggle for Lotus today. Pastor Maldonado carries over his grid penalty from Suzuka and will go back a further five places on the grid for the start of the race on Sunday. Romain Grosjean had issues with his car all day.
He expressed his displeasure over the radio in FP2 by telling the team “there is still a problem with the car”. Earlier on in the day the Frenchman had been complaining of problems with his rear suspension as well as a lack of power from him Renault engine.
Looking ahead to qualifying tomorrow it looks to be a foregone conclusion. Lewis Hamilton simply blew the entire field away this afternoon by setting a time almost one second clear of the rest of the field. If the Brit can have a clean FP3 tomorrow morning it looks as if it’ll be Hamilton on pole.
Leave your predictions below.