Mercedes continued to lead the way around Sochi Autodrom this afternoon, but this time it was Lewis Hamilton who pulped the opposition. The Briton was the only man to break into the 1m 39s, and duly ended the session more than eight tenths clear of the chasing pack.
Hamilton’s surge came as the field switched onto the yellow-marked soft tyre: first he did 1m 39.817s, then cut that to 1m 39.630s. Team mate Nico Rosberg, who had earlier been fastest on the hard tyre with 1m 41.508s to Hamilton’s 1m 41.750s, made a mistake and ran wide on the best of his own flying laps and was left in fourth place with 1m 40.542s after his soft-tyre runs.
Between them, McLaren continued their strong start in Russia as Kevin Magnussen jumped to second on 1m 40.494s, albeit 0.864s down on Hamilton. And Fernando Alonso made a big improvement in the final half hour to go third for Ferrari after several laps on the soft tyre, with 1m 40.504s.
In general the times have been very tight thus far, Hamilton excepted. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas recovered from a tyre blanket malfunction this morning to slot into fifth on 1m 40.573s – three hundredths of a second down on Rosberg, and fractions ahead of Jenson Button, who set 1m 40.718s in the second McLaren, and Felipe Massa on 1m 40.731s in the other FW36.
Daniil Kvyat described his Toro Rosso as “lazy” but remained the fastest Renault-engined runner in eighth, on 1m 41.108s.