Ferrari edge ahead of Mercedes in Russian Grand Prix Practice

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel traded the top spot in practice for the Russian Grand Prix, the latter breaking the lap record in a bid to open the gap to Mercedes.

Raikkonen was quickest in the morning having set a lap time on the Super Soft tyre a little ways into the session, with Valtteri Bottas behind in second and Lewis Hamilton third. Vettel was fourth quickest but couldn’t put in a quick lap on the Super Softs after spinning on his first attempt at the final corner, then his next effort was curtailed when the red flag came out due to an errant engine cover from Esteban Ocon’s Force India.

This was the second drama that occurred during the morning session, the first happening when homeboy Sergey Sirotkin who was filing in for Nico Hulkenberg stopped don track with gearbox issues. Despite Renault’s best efforts to restart the car, it seemed like Sirotkin was unable to select a gear which forced him out of the session after just 10 minutes.

In the afternoon Vettel lead the timing sheets from Raikkonen and Bottas, after the drivers made the switch to the Ultra Soft tyre. Hamilton only ended up fourth quickest having abandoned his first run when he went wide at Turn 4, then briefly going third quickest on his second run before Bottas went a tenth quicker. The two Ferrari drivers set their lap time early on in the session again, with Raikkonen briefly going top before Vettel went two tenths quicker having went for another lap immediately afterwards.

Ferrari ended the session just over half-a-second quicker than Mercedes on the Ultra Soft, although there is still more pace to come from them as the Super Soft lap times showed that they were only two tenths adrift.

Max Verstappen was fifth quickest despite his long-run being disrupted with 20 minutes of the session left to go, reporting a “loss of power” over the team radio when he ground to a halt at the penultimate corner. Team mate Daniel Ricciardo could only manage sixth quickest, while Hulkenberg went eight quickest which was another positive sign for Renault amid their lack of power issues.

Stoffel Vandoorne seemed to be taking a leaf out of Fernando Alonso’s book, when he exclaimed over the team radio mid-session in the afternoon about how the Force India passed him on the straight “from soo far back” and proceeded to call it “incredible.” He ended up 16th quickest while Alonso was 12th quickest in practice two, the latter not far off the pace of the Force India’s who just rounded out the top ten on their Ultra Soft runs.

Lance Stroll also seemed to struggle on the Ultra Soft runs, finishing in 19th quickest in the afternoon session having previously went ninth quickest in the morning.

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