From second best to the best, Hamilton tops FP2 at the Russian Grand Prix.
During another session of spins, and a stopping Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton led the way as supersofts hit the track. The option tyre saw Hamilton drop into the 1:37s, while an electronic issue stopped Vettel’s running.
When the session got underway around the Sochi winter Olympic park, it was Vettel who took the early lead. With just a 0.005 second gap separating the Ferrari from the morning pace-setter, Rosberg. Although both their times were eight tenths down on Nico’s morning best.
Hamilton soon maneuvered himself ahead of the Ferrari and his team-mate, with Lewis dropping the benchmark by six tenths of a second. Although his run to P1 saw him leave the track again at turn two and turn seven.
But while turns two and seven saw Hamilton running wide, turn four caused the reigning World Champion to spin. Although he was not alone as Wehrlein at turn seven and Grosjean later at turn eight brought out the yellow flags.
Grosjean’s spin at the fast left-hander of turn eight saw the Frenchman lose the rear of his Haas on turn in, while grip levels remained low. Fast reactions from the ex-Lotus driver saw Romain flick the car back into gear and off the racing line the moment it stopped rolling backwards. Earlier in the session, Grosjean had also reported something feeling as if it were not working as it should when compared to how it felt last time out in China.
Hamilton’s spin where he took the high-kerb on the inside of turn four also proved a turning point in the session, as the supersofts soon came out of their blankets.
First to attack with the option tyres was Kimi Raikkonen. However the Finn opted to abandon his first flyer following an early mistake. His subsequent effort was only strong enough to reside half a second down on Vettel.
But while Vettel now resided in P1 by 0.076 to Hamilton’s soft time, the German was parking his Ferrari on the grid as an electronics issue caused a sudden loss of power. Sebastian had been pushing on what would be his final lap of the session, before a brief drop of power followed a full shut down as the German flowed through the final corners.
Sebastian’s retirement on the grid meant the Virtual Safety Car needed to be activated, which came at the expense of teams – including Mercedes – who had just sent their drivers out on supersoft tyres.
Once Vettel’s Ferrari had returned to the pits, the Mercedes drivers were back out on track with slightly used supersofts. The slight use they received before the VSC meant both drivers needed an extra warm up lap. Yet the extra lap through the tyres failed to prevent Hamilton from regaining P1 by six tenths of a second once more.
While Hamilton set purple times in every sector, Rosberg was unable to get a full flying lap under his belt as the German hit traffic. Even as Hamilton set new fastest first and second sectors before backing off, Rosberg was unable to push. A new fastest final sector by Hamilton soon followed, to set a theoretical best time of 1:37.429. The combination of his best sectors would have seen him finish two tenths up on his actual best.
Once the chequered flag fell to end Friday’s running, the yellow flags at turn 15 remained on track. The yellows were still needed following the end of the session as Pascal Wehrlein was forced to park his Manor on the grass following a loss of power.