Hamilton hoping for rain as Mercedes lose Sochi mastery


Charles Leclerc believes he overreacted to Ferrari's strategy in the Singapore Grand Prix and has "a lot to learn" about handling such a situation in future. "It's a track where the rears are struggling a little bit in the last sector, so you need to maybe compromise it a bit in the first sector to be better in the third sector, and we are struggling to find the balance in that".

Leclerc topped Friday's morning practice as the SF90's aero package for Sochi was validated and then clocked in just 0.335s behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen in FP2, when the focus was on preparations for qualifying. As the vehicle performance graph shows, they had supreme pace in the medium speed corners - of which there are many in Sochi.

Hamilton said he also hoped to avoid a team orders scenario and admitted that he had "hated" winning at Bottas' expense in 2018. There is quite a difference in balance from the beginning to the end of the lap.

There have been suggestions Mercedes could look to maintain their monopoly by bringing Verstappen into their garage at the expense of Bottas.

It was a generally uneventful session, although Daniel Ricciardo spun and crashed at Turn 10 at the very end.

With rain forecast to play a part in both final practice and qualifying on Saturday, there was a greater impetus on teams to get their long run data gathering ticked off on Friday when it was dry.

But while Mercedes opted to split their running, with Hamilton focusing on the soft and medium and Bottas tackling the soft and hard, Red Bull and Ferrari opted to ignore the hard and run only the soft and medium compounds. Definitely if we wouldn't have had the Singapore weekend, we would not arrive here thinking we are the favorites.

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Red Bull have yet to confirm who they will put alongside the Dutchman in 2020. "The mirror-like surface is something he likes and he's always been very strong here".

British teenager Lando Norris finished 11th, four tenths and six places clear of McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz. But their race pace was at least encouraging, particularly in relation to Renault, who were 0.3s/lap slower.

Hamilton added that he was happy to "see the competition doing well, but we want to be in there fighting".

Hamilton is concerned that Ferrari's step forward means they will be tough to beat for the rest of the season, assuming it means their cornering performance has improved to go along with their straight-line speed advantage.

But Ferrari's Prancing Horse is certainly at the races. Hamilton says he's hoping for the wet stuff, which you can understand given he's nearly always blisteringly quick in those conditions.

The London-born Thai watched much of the session from the garage as his mechanics worked on damage to the floor of his vehicle before he set a time only good enough for 10th.