Ferrari may have topped both practice sessions in Russia on Friday, but Mercedes appears to have the upper hand when it comes to long-run pace.
Sebastian Vettel led a Ferrari 1-2 in FP2, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas classified seventh tenths behind in third place.
However, the pecking order was the exact opposite in race simulations, with Bottas’ 19-lap stint on ultrasoft tyres catching everyone’s attention.
The Finn’s average time was 1m38.658s, two tenths quicker than what Vettel managed on a much shorter 13 lap stint.
Interestingly, the Mercedes driver managed a 1m38.073s on his last flyer, showing their was still some pace left in his tyres.
Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen appeared to struggle on Pirelli’s softest compound, averaging a time of 1m39.868 after 14 laps. The 2007 world champion didn’t dip even once into the 1m38s, showing the disparity of pace between him and Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton was the only frontrunner to do a long run on supersoft tyre, having completed 11 laps with an average of 1m38.703s.
Those expecting Red Bull to join Mercedes and Ferrari to form a three-horse race would be disappointed. Max Verstappen’s session was cut short by a power unit issue, while Daniel Ricciardo’s average time was 1m40.855s over a nine lap stint.
Given the low degradation of the Sochi Circuit, one-stop should be the norm in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
While tyre graining was an issue in yesteryears, this year’s low-degradation Pirelli tyres mean that drivers should be able to push for much longer durations.
It would also be interesting to see if Mercedes is able to turn up their engine in qualifying and retain their 100% 2017 pole position record.
Bottas - 1:38.658 (19 lap stint on ultrasofts)
Hamilton - Supersoft 1:38.703 (11 lap stint on supersofts)
Vettel - 1:38.885s (13 lap stint on ultrasofts)
Raikkonen -1:39.868 (14 lap stint on ultrasofts)
Ricciardo - 1:40.855s (9 lap stint on ultrasofts)
by Rachit Thukral