Russian GP: Practice team notes - Ferrari

Russian GP: Practice team notes - Ferrari

Russian GP: Practice team notes - Ferrari

"There is still quite a lot of lap time to be gained on our side", the Ferrari driver said.

Vettel's early stop in Singapore was partly a reaction to Red Bull getting ready to stop Verstappen, who was running in fourth, and partly to try to get Vettel ahead of second-placed man Hamilton. But it is tricky to set up the vehicle, because the first and second sectors are quick and once you arrive in the third sector, the tyres are not in the best shape anymore.

Dutchman Verstappen, who is set to take a five-place grid penalty for using a new engine, clocked a best lap in one minute and 33.162 seconds to outpace Leclerc, victor of the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, by 0.335 seconds on a cool and dry afternoon. The track layout can be deceptive, as it has many similar corners.

Bottas was 0.7secs off Leclerc, and Hamilton 0.2secs further back.

And then there was Mercedes, rolling in third in the pecking order. "It's mostly the balance throughout the qualifying lap". Toro Rosso will likely be out of the scrap for a top 10 starting spot courtesy of engine penalties, though.

"We have been very surprised in Singapore by how quick we were", he admitted.

With rain forecast to play a part in both final practice and qualifying on Saturday, there was a greater impetus on teams to get their long run data gathering ticked off on Friday when it was dry. Anyway, we have the tyres for whatever the situation might be.

Singapore victor Sebastian Vettel took longer to get his fastest lap in on the soft tyres and wound up fifth, one second off the pace.

Red Bull have yet to confirm who they will put alongside the Dutchman in 2020. Alexander Albon spent much of the second session in the garage, with his RB15 up on the stands. The result is three very distinct cars, which are quick on different parts of the track but remarkably close over an entire lap.

Racing Point and McLaren were best of the rest, the latter not having the best of days as Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz spoke of a lack of overall grip and therefore confidence in the vehicle.

"We've been fast, and competitive on the high-fuel runs, so in general I am quite happy".

Hamilton is concerned that Ferrari's step forward means they will be tough to beat for the rest of the season, assuming it means their cornering performance has improved to go along with their straight-line speed advantage.

"It's up to them [Red Bull's hierarchy]".

Tomorrow's weather forecast could throw another spanner in the works, too, with rain expected throughout the day.

Hamilton has said he would welcome Verstappen joining him at Mercedes.

Much will depend on how Ferrari's updated auto, with a heavily-revised front end, behaves at the demanding Sochi circuit, with several inviting straights, where Vettel has been the only non-Mercedes driver to claim pole in 2017.

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