Vettel tops final Russian GP practice after tight Ferrari, Mercedes battle

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Sebastian Vettel closed out Formula 1 practice for the Russian Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets following a tight battle between Ferrari and Mercedes on Saturday at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel headed up a one-two finish for Ferrari on Friday in Russia, suggesting the Italian marque had the march on the rival Mercedes team heading into the remainder of the weekend.

Mercedes was able to put up a more stringent challenge through FP3 as both teams experimented with their tire strategies, finding that the ultra-soft tires were at their best on the second hot lap.

Vettel eventually worked the fastest time down to 1:34.001 – the best-ever lap at the Sochi Autodrom – to finish three-tenths of a second clear at the top of the standings, heading up a one-two finish for Ferrari ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Valtteri Bottas led Mercedes’ charge in third place, 0.363 seconds off Vettel’s benchmark, while teammate Lewis Hamilton struggled to keep his rear tires alive, leaving him fourth-quick and over half a second back.

Red Bull had a difficult session as Max Verstappen finished over 1.4 seconds off Vettel’s time in fifth place. There was worse news for Daniel Ricciardo, who suffered a stoppage late in the session after losing power on his car. Although Ricciardo was able to get the car back going, he could only finish eighth.

Felipe Massa led Williams’ charge once again in sixth place ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, while Carlos Sainz Jr. and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10 behind Ricciardo.

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.