Mercedes hits the front in Russia FP2 as Vettel spins

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Mercedes hits the front in Russia FP2 as Vettel spins

Formula 1

Mercedes hits the front in Russia FP2 as Vettel spins

Lewis Hamilton led teammate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes hit the front in second practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Having not used the softest compound of tire in the opening session on Friday, Mercedes set the pace once carrying out qualifying simulations on hypersoft tires in FP2. Hamilton led the way with a 1m33.385s, but Bottas — who won in Russia last year — was a match for his teammate for much of the session and ended up second with a 1m33.584s after running wide at the final corner.

Somewhat surprisingly it was Red Bull that finished FP2 as the closest challenger to Mercedes, with Max Verstappen third, 0.442s adrift of Hamilton. Verstappen complained of the Red Bull being slow on the straights, but still ended up 0.017s ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Fortunately for Ferrari, the presence of the Red Bulls ahead of it on the timing screens is not a concern as both Verstappen and Ricciardo will start from the back of the grid as a result of power unit penalties this weekend.

While that is some consolation, Sebastian Vettel will still not be content with fifth in FP2, with the German over half a second off Hamilton’s pace. Vettel also suffered a spin during his long run as his hypersoft tires became worn, swapping ends at the low speed Turn 13 before returning to the pits.

Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT

Vettel was half a second clear of teammate Kimi Raikkonen in sixth, with Ferrari also appearing to miss a trick when it came to practice starts during the session. The first three grid positions in Sochi are located on a fresh patch of asphalt compared to the rest of the grid, and with a small strip of the same new asphalt at the pit exit Mercedes took the opportunity to launch from both surfaces.

Ferrari, however, only ever practiced starts from the older surface that is the same as all of the grid positions behind the top three.

Behind the top six, Sergio Perez was the first example of a strange quirk that saw all drivers who missed FP1 beat their teammates in the second session. After being replaced by Nicholas Latifi in FP1, Perez ended up seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon in ninth, while Pierre Gasly split the two Force Indias as Toro Rosso made an encouraging start to the weekend with an updated Honda power unit.

Marcus Ericsson — replaced by 2019 Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi in FP1 — was 10th quickest and Carlos Sainz 12th having watched Artem Markelov drive in the opening session, with their teammates Charles Leclerc and Nico Hulkenberg 13th and 14th respectively.

Fernando Alonso was the other driver to miss FP1 as Lando Norris gained further experience ahead of his debut next year, and the Spaniard was 0.6s faster than Stoffel Vandoorne as McLaren again struggled in 17th and 18th. Alonso will also start from the back on Sunday after taking a new Renault power unit.

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