Vet­tel on top in open­ing prac­tice, Hamil­ton third

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

Fer­rari’s For­mula One ti­tle con­tender Se­bas­tian Vet­tel set the pace in first prac­tice for the Rus­sian Grand Prix on Fri­day with a quar­ter of the 20-car start­ing grid al­ready fac­ing penal­ties for Sun­day’s race.

The Ger­man lapped the Sochi cir­cuit with a best time of 1 minute 34.488 sec­onds, with Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen a mere 0.050 sec­onds slower and cham­pi­onship leader Lewis Hamil­ton third for Mercedes.

Hamil­ton, 0.330 off the pace but on the slower soft tire rather than the hy­per­soft used by Vet­tel and Ver­stap­pen, leads his fel­low four-time world cham­pion by 40 points with six races re­main­ing.

Vet­tel is run­ning out of time to rein in Hamil­ton, who has seven vic­to­ries to his credit this sea­son in­clud­ing four of the last five.

Ver­stap­pen turns 21 on Sun­day but his chances of be- com­ing the first 20-year-old to take a pole po­si­tion be­came nonex­is­tent when he was one of five driv­ers listed with con­firmed en­gine penal­ties.

The Dutch driver would nor­mally have to start from the back of the grid but where ex­actly he will line up re­mained un­cer­tain due to the num­ber of sim­i­lar penal­ties handed out.

Ver­stap­pen’s Aus­tralian team­mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Bren­don Hart­ley as well as McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso were also hit with grid drops to the back of the field.

Vet­tel took pole in Sochi last year but vic­tory went to Hamil­ton’s team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas with Mercedes still un­beaten since the race’s de­but in 2014.

Ric­cia­rdo was fifth fastest, be­hind Bot­tas, but sat out much of the ses­sion with me­chan­ics work­ing on his car on an oth­er­wise un­event­ful morn­ing.

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