Hamilton and Mercedes still unassailable in FP3 as Ferrari struggles

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Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes remained out of touch from their rivals in Saturday's final free practice session before this afternoon's qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.

The Brit clocked in with a lap in 1m33.067s that put him 0.254s clear of team mate Valtteri Bottas, while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel struggled once again to keep up, the German driver and team mate Kimi Raikkonen unable to challenge their silver Arrows counterparts.

2018 Russian Grand Prix - Free Practice 3

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.067s 13
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.321s + 0.254s 16
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.667s + 0.600s 14
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.688s + 0.621s 11
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33.937s + 0.870s 11
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:34.394s + 1.327s 14
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:34.628s + 1.561s 15
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:34.809s + 1.742s 16
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.820s + 1.753s 15
10 Sergio Pérez Force India 1:34.916s + 1.849s 14
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:34.988s + 1.921s 13
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:35.125s + 2.058s 21
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:35.185s + 2.118s 18
14 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:35.213s + 2.146s 12
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:35.370s + 2.303s 16
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:36.033s + 2.966s 22
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:36.071s + 3.004s 16
18 Lance Stroll Williams 1:36.274s + 3.207s 20
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:36.597s + 3.530s 14
20 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:36.992s + 3.925s 21

Saturday's ultimate free practice session kicked off under blue skies and warm temperatures, with much of the focus on Ferrari, the Scuderia's SF71-H appearing way down on speed at Sochi compared to Mercedes' W09.

Kimi Raikkonen set the early pace on Pirelli's hypersoft, putting himself clear of the field by almost 2 seconds with a lap in 1m35.074s that team mate Sebastian Vettel was quick to overhaul when he laid down a 1m33.8s.

Mercedes Valtteri Bottas also got himself up to speed, splitting the red cars while Hamilton, Friday's fastest man, was still warming up.

Gradually, the Silver Arrows pair gathered strength and speed, with Bottas edging Vettel and then Hamilton moving ahead of both with a 1m33.496.

Force India's Sergio Perez placed himself P5 as Red Bull's chargers lingered in the mid-field, still working on their respective set-ups.

As usual, the latter part of FP3 was devoted to qualifying simulations for the big guns. Vettel pushed the boundaries a bit too much on the hypersoft, and ran wide at Turn 4.

A cleaner lap from Bottas put the Finn at the top of the timesheet, but he was quickly demoted to second when Hamilton put in a fast one in 1m33.067s, which was also a new track record for Sochi.

That effort was another clear indication that Mercedes is likely to run away with qualifying this afternoon.

Vettel tried once again to up the pace, but to no avail, the Ferrari driver remaining over half a second adrift as he appeared to struggle in the final part of the circuit.

The final minutes of running saw Verstappen and Ricciardo line up fifth and sixth behind the Mercedes-Ferrari barrage, while Sauber's Charles Leclerc concluded the morning as best of the rest, nicely improving on his Friday form.

Force India's Esteban Ocon, Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez completed the top ten.

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