Vettel Gets Penalty While Hamilton Tops Russian GP Practice

Sebastian Vettel will be pushed back 5 places for gearbox change
Photo Credit To Twitter @Channel 4 F1

World champion Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in Friday’s practice sessions, ahead of the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, the fourth race of the 2016 Formula One season. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished second, but has been slapped with a 5-place grid penalty.

Ferrari has been going through a torrid season and find themselves overshadowed by the Mercedes cars. Their problems worsened again when Sebastian Vettel’s car broke down in the middle of the session. His car required a change of the gearbox which will mean that the 4-time champion will get a 5-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday. Vettel still finished in second spot in the practice sessions, 0.652 seconds behind Hamilton.

Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes Nico Rosberg has already taken a considerable lead in the race for the title by winning all 3 races so far. Rosberg finished the practice sessions on Friday in 3rd spot, 0.867 seconds behind his teammate. But the German didn’t set a time on the faster tyres.

It was the perfect start to the race weekend that Hamilton was looking for. He is already 36 points adrift of Rosberg for the title and a strong performance in Russia was crucial to his bid for a 4th world title. The two Mercedes cars seem to be favourites yet again to dominate the race.

“It’s been a constructive day to start the weekend,” Hamilton said. “I think we’re looking strong here – but we need to keep working hard if we are to try and stay ahead of the Ferraris.”

Trouble for the Ferraris.

Sebastian Vettel’s gearbox failure was a result of his clash with teammate Kimi Raikkonen at first lap of the Chinese Grand Prix. Ferrari had bought an upgraded version of their engine for this race and having already suffered two engine failures during races this season, things aren’t looking good for the men in red.

Vettel said, “The balance was not quite where I wanted it to be, but the circuit should come our way. It was quite slippery. Lacking a bit of information from my side but other people did their homework and hopefully we can copy that a bit.”

Vettel will have to start the race from atmost 6th spot, but that would be possible only if he beats the two Mercedes drivers. Realistically, Vettel can expect to start at 8th. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished the practice sessions 4th fastest, but he was almost half a minute short of Vettel’s time. The Finn will hope to start 3rd.

The Rest of the Pack.

Behind the Mercedes and Ferrari cars, 5th place was taken by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, while Williams’ Valtteri Bottas just 0.101 seconds behind him. Ricciardo’s teammate Daniil Kvyat was next up, finishing 7th.

Another team which impressed was the McLaren-Honda with their two former champion drivers, Jenson Button finishing 8th and Fernando Alonso at 10th. Williams’ Felipe Massa at 9th completed the Top 10 at the Friday practice session of the Russian Grand Prix.

The grid was completed by the two Toro Rosso cars, followed by the Force Indias. The new team, Haas had impressed in earlier races this season, but had a disappointing day today, finishing 16th and 17th. Renault, Sauber and Manor had bad days, rounding up the last spots.

The Aeroscreen.

An interesting possible future addition to the Formula One was tested today morning when Daniel Ricciardo drove with the ‘aeroscreen’ in his car. Due to increasing number of injuries and accidents, the FIA had invited all teams to come up with designs for better protection for drivers, especially for their head. The Red Bull team tested their ‘aeroscreen’ design today and it seemed very effective.

Ricciardo said, “The vision seemed OK; the first impressions were fine. It was definitely drivable. I would not say you are hindered any more than we are now with visibility.”

With one of the new designs definitely being taken up by the FIA next season, the aeroscreen seems to be leading that race. Ferrari tested its ‘halo’ in pre-season, but this design seems more elegant and efficient at the same time.

The Russian Grand Prix Qualifying is on Saturday and Main Race on Sunday, both starting at 13:00 BST.

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