Leclerc and Ferrari top final practice in Russia

SOCHI, Russia (AFP) – Charles Leclerc topped the times ahead of his team-mate Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari dominated yesterday morning’s third and final free practice session for today’s Russian Grand Prix.

The Monegasque, who is chasing a fourth consecutive pole position and a third win in four outings, clocked a best lap in one minute 32.733 seconds to outpace the four-time champion German by 0.316 seconds.

The return to form of the ‘Prancing Horses’ left Mercedes trailing in pursuit with series leader and defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton third ahead of his Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas, four- and six-tenths off the pace respectively.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth, 1.4 seconds adrift, ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Alex Albon in the second Red Bull, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Lando Norris of McLaren.

Kevin Magnussen was 10th in the second Haas.

On a dry but cloudy morning, after overnight rain, Ferrari set the pace with Mercedes in pursuit, each improving as the circuit dried out.

There were few major incidents, but luckless local hero Daniil Kvyat’s nightmare weekend in front of his home fans continued when he pulled up in his Toro Rosso with an engine failure.

Honda said immediately that he needed a new power unit that would rule him out of qualifying and leave him to start at the back of the field today.

Ferrari hope to extend their winning run to four, having reeled off three consecutive victories with last Sunday’s Singapore triumph for the first time since 2008.

If they do so, they will end Mercedes’ stranglehold on success in Sochi, the champions having won every race since the inaugural Russian event in 2014.

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc. PHOTO: AFP