The Russian Grand Prix has been a Mercedes stronghold since its entry into the Formula 1 calendar in 2014 with Lewis Hamilton taking the wins in 2014 & 2015 before Nico Rosberg claimed victory in 2016. Even in qualifying, it has been the Silver Arrows team that have dominated.
It was expected to be no different in 2017 despite Ferrari's emergence as a genuine title challenger in the first three races of the campaign. Mercedes' superiority in the power unit front was expected to allow them to be ahead of the Italian team. But it looks like Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen did not get the script as they set the fastest times in the two practice sessions on Friday (28 April).
The Finn was the fastest in the morning session, while the German took the plaudits in the afternoon. It was more surprising owing to the gap between the two teams, with the fastest Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas over half a second slower than Vettel.
The cars used the ultra-soft tyre compounds for the first time at the Sochi track and the reigning champions struggled to get it up to the desired temperature while Ferrari had no such problems. Vettel, however, took the advantage with a pinch of salt and indicated that Mercedes were hiding their true pace and he expects them to be faster when it comes to qualifying on Saturday.
Everyone on the grid is aware that Mercedes turn up their engine mode for qualifying and they are expected to close the gap and even possibly be ahead when it matters most. But Hamilton denied suggestions that the Brackley team were sandbagging and believes Ferrari are genuinely faster than his team at the moment.
Red Bull racing are a distant third and looks like they will have a race of their own, as there is a big gap between them and the rest of the midfield – Force India, Williams, Renault and Toro Rosso.
Where to watch live
The third free practice session begins at 10am BST on Saturday (29 April) and the qualifying session at 1pm BST. Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports F1 HD will provide live coverage of both events in the UK.
Real-time internet updates are available on the Live Timing section of the sport's official website.
Top 10 positions following FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia: