Russian GP: Hamilton surged to supremacy in FP2

After being second best earlier in the morning, Lewis Hamilton had the better of his championship rival in FP2. Hamilton posted the fastest time of the day with his 1:39:630, just shy of a second faster than Rosberg’s FP2 time, and almost three seconds faster than Nico’s FP1 time.

Back in FP1, Rosberg topped the session by just six hundredths of a second to Hamilton. But the Mercedes dominance with another 1-2 finish was not the only important thing you could take from the session. McLaren looked impressive during the session as they appeared to cope far greater than some with the low levels of grip at hand on a new circuit.

Also in FP1, Roberto Merhi and Sergey Sirotkin took a seat in a Formula One car as they replaced Kobayashi at Caterham and Gutierrez at Sauber for the session. However come FP2, they were back on the side lines with Kamui and Esteban returning to their cars.

When the green light at the end of the pit lane flicked on to mark the start of the second Formula One session in Russia, Max Chilton and Esteban Gutierrez ventured out onto the Sochi Autodrom. Not so soon later, the pair were joined by most of the field as the early lap times hit the board.

After venturing onto the track early, Esteban Gutierrez took the early lead on the time sheet. However he was soon pushed towards the bottom of the order as the pecking order started to appear. Now the lead of the session fell into the hands of Button as the Brit and his McLaren continued to shine in the Russian sun.

As the clock ticked by, the times began to drop lower and lower as the 1:41:000 mark crept into sight. Button temporarily extended his lead at the top of the timesheet with a 1:41:928, after shaving over a second off his previous best time. But Button was unable to hold of the challenge from Mercedes when the Silver Arrows soared around the Sochi Autodrom, with Rosberg going top on a 1:41:508. In the build up to Rosberg’s 1:41:508, the lead had swapped back and forth between the two Mercedes drivers but Rosberg kept his foot ahead after the first thirty minutes.

After 90 minutes running in the opening practice session and thirty minutes of the second free practice session, the first drivers to use to soft tyres hit the track. Gutierrez, Hulkenberg and Sutil all put on the yellow marked tyres early on in the session compared to the other drivers, but all found an instant gain.

Gutierrez improved on his previous best time by around seven tenths of a second, although it still was not enough to get the Mexican out of the bottom half. As for Hulkenberg, with the soft tyres attached to his Force India, he found over 1 and a half seconds compared to his best time on the medium tyre. That lap was even enough to move the German into P4, before another flying lap sent the German into the top 2.

Now with the times avalanching down on the option tyres, the rest of the field made the switch. Although this did not see all the drivers improving by the substantial margins Hulkenberg showed. Yet for Button and Rosberg, the change in compound was enough for both to improve and the top spot change hands back and forth once more. Even Kevin Magnussen had joined in on the party, putting just three thousandths of a second between himself and Rosberg.

As it stood Rosberg lead from the two McLaren’s, but Button wanted the top spot back. And got the spot back as he broke into the 1:40’s. However he would only hold that lead for a matter of seconds with Rosberg moving back ahead. Although even Rosberg would lose that lead.

This time it was even Button who snatched the top spot away from Rosberg, instead it was Jenson’s rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen. There was a matter of tenths of a second between the McLaren’s, with Nico Rosberg sandwiched in-between.

But now Hamilton had his chance to stake his claim, with the current championship leader swiping the top spot away from Magnussen by over half a second. He also became the first driver to lap in the 1 minute 39s before all four returned to their garages.

After a short break in the garages, the drivers returned to the Sochi Autodrom to carry out long runs on the soft compound tyres. Over these laps, the lap times slowed down as teams opted for durability over speed. But in terms of speed, the McLaren’s continued to look strong with Jenson himself being told his long-run pace was comparable with the Mercedes.

As the session ticked into the final ten minutes, the long runs continued. However with just under eight minutes left, the Red Flag came out. A mechanical issue caused Daniel Ricciardo to pull over to the side of the track and swiftly exit his car as smoke billowed from the air intake.

Despite the clock continuing to count down under the red flag, the session restarted with just three minutes remaining. Three minutes was enough for the drivers to carry out another timed lap each, with Vettel leading the train of cars out of the pit lane. However on those final laps, no driver carried out a lap of significance.

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.630
2 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.494 0.864
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:40.504 0.874
4 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.542 0.912
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:40.573 0.943
6 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.718 1.088
7 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:40.731 1.101
8 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:41.108 1.478
9 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:41.396 1.766
10 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:41.531 1.901
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:41.630 2.000
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:41.677 2.047
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:42.061 2.431
14 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:42.090 2.460
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.233 2.603
16 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:42.892 3.262
17 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:42.905 3.275
18 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:43.055 3.425
19 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:44.135 4.505
20 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:44.530 4.900
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:44.952 5.322