It’s only the fourth Grand Prix of the season but it’s already a vitally important one for defending world champion Lewis Hamilton. Has the tide turned and is Nico Rosberg now the number one driver at Mercedes?
Three straight wins this season and six on the trot since Hamilton clinched the 2015 title certainly indicate that. Hamilton arrives in Russia 36 points behind his Mercedes teammate and know that he has to start closing that gap and certainly can’t allow it to widen even further.
Hamilton admitted that himself earlier this week telling the BBC: “Who knows how the weekend will go? It could be as bad as in the past, but I’m hoping it will be positive.” Could his luck be running out perhaps? Rosberg is probably due some luck but Hamilton must ask himself just why he’s had two bad starts so far this season. China was a mechanical nightmare for him leading to him starting at the back of the grid but he fought back well to finish seventh and at least he had a better start so that’s promising.
So to Russia and the first practice session was a good one for Nico Rosberg as he finished fastest ahead of Hamilton. On the super-soft tyres, Rosberg led Hamilton by 0.722 seconds and on the soft just 0.21 seconds. Super-soft tyres are going to be used in qualifying when it comes to the battle for pole so advantage Rosberg again.
Ferrari only used soft tyres in the first practice and Sebastian Vettel was only 0.078 seconds slower than Rosberg on that tyre though that was achieved at a time when the track had more grip. However there was bad news to come for the former world champion in the second practice session. McLaren had a few problems in the first practice session. Jenson Button spun his car twice and Fernando Alonso lost time due to mechanical problems.
The second practice session proved even more interesting. It was good news for Lewis Hamilton as he finished 0.652 seconds clear of Sebastian Vettel with Rosberg in third. The German didn’t set a time on the faster tyres though so Hamilton can’t get too excited. He was 0.14 seconds quicker than Rosberg on the soft tyres.
The big news though was the fate of Sebastian Vettel. His Ferrari stopped on the track due to an electrical failure. Reliability really is putting a dampener on the season for Ferrari and worse news was to come for them. Vettel’s car will need a gearbox change as a result of the collision with team mate Kimi Raikkonen in the Chinese Grand Prix. That means just like Lewis Hamilton in China, the German driver gets a five-place grid penalty. With Mercedes in dominant form so far in Russia, the best he can hope for is eighth place on the grid on Sunday.
I’ll be back tomorrow after qualifying so let’s hope for a good session. See you then and enjoy watching your racing.