Lewis Hamilton clocked the quickest time in FP2 at Sochi, setting a 1’33’’385, almost two tenths clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas. Mercedes confirmed its superiority on the speed trap and on the long runs as well, although Ferrari proved it could bring some competition to the German team this weekend. The Red Bull duo, which is going to start from the bottom of the grid, follows less than 5 tenths down with Max Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo by 17 thousandths, as both drivers managed to impose themselves in front of Vettel and Raikkonen.
The German emerged 0.543s off pacesetter Hamilton, whereas Kimi Raikkonen could not go any further than P6, 1 second down from the top, and reported tyre problems on both the HS and the US compounds. Other than tyre-understanding-related issues, Ferrari seems to struggle on the second and on the third sector, particularly on 90° corners.
The midfield appears tight as always, having 3 different teams within P10. Sergio Perez brought his Force India to P7, nearly tied with Honda-powered Gasly and Esteban Ocon. Marcus Ericsson, who will cede his Alfa Romeo seat to Antonio Giovinazzi next year, rounds up the top 10, 1.9s far from the top.
Teams and drivers tested out the HS tyre on Russian soil more thoroughly in FP2. However, it looks like the US tyre will be the most reliable one for the race. Vettel displayed a competitive pace, despite the traffic encountered throughout all 3 long runs, even better than Mercedes’ at times. Kimi Raikkonen on Softs showed promise, as well as Max Verstappen on a used set of HS through a 1'37''.
A comprehensive impression of today's free practices would suggest that the top teams have not decided to show their true colours yet, saving up a few aces for qualifying and the race.
Here are the timesheets of today's FP2: