Record-setting Hamilton tops Sochi practice session

Record-setting Hamilton tops Sochi practice session

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton topped the times in record fashion as he and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas dominated the third and final practice for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes men delivered a convincing one-two on a bright sunlit morning by the Black Sea where Ferrari again struggled to keep pace with the Silver Arrows.

Britain’s defending four-time world champion, who leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 40 points in this year’s title race, stormed to a fastest lap in one minute and 33.067 seconds – an outright lap record for the Sochi Autodrom.

This left team-mate Bottas trailing by nearly three-tenths of a second and Vettel, down in third, by six-tenths with the Sauber-bound Kimi Raikkonen taking fourth in the second Ferrari.

Dutchman Max Verstappen, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Sunday, was fifth for Red Bull ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari-bound Monegasque prodigy Charles Leclerc of Sauber.

Frenchman Esteman Ocon, who is expected to lose his seat at Force India despite a highly-promising season, was eighth ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Sergio Perez, in the second Force India.

The session followed confirmation from Toro Rosso that local hero Daniil Kvyat had been re-signed by the team for next season. It will be the Russian’s third spell with the team.

Current Toro Rosso driver, Frenchman Pierre Gasly, is moving to replace Renault-bound Ricciardo at Red Bull.

“Toro Rosso has always made me feel at home and I’m sure it will still be the same next season,” said Kvyatt, who has been released by Ferrari where he was hired as a development driver.