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Hamilton on top in Sochi

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SOCHI, Russia — In-form championship leader Lewis Hamilton bounced back to top the times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Friday’s second practice for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion clocked a best lap time of one minute and 33.385 seconds to outpace the Finn by two-tenths of a second at the Sochi Autodrom where title rival Sebastian Vettel was fifth quickest.

Vettel, desperate to trim Hamilton’s 40-point lead in the championship, was 0.543 seconds adrift of the Englishman who continued to demonstrate his current rich vein of form after four wins in the last five races, including triumphs in Italy and Singapore.

“Sochi has been one of the weaker circuits for me in the past, particularly last year,” said Hamilton, who finished fourth in 2017.

“So I’ve done a lot of work to understand the balance and see where I can improve to try and rectify this — and today has been good in that sense.

“From every race we’re learning more and more and particularly the last few races have helped us to really gauge which foot we need to start on for the weekend.

“We’ve brought more upgrades this weekend and there’s so much work going on at home.
“It’s just really encouraging when you come to a race and you get an upgrade, knowing that this late in the season we’re also already working on next year’s car — it motivates me to get the best out of everything.

“It’s been a good day for us so let’s hope that it continues tomorrow.”

Vettel of Ferrari had been fastest earlier in the opening session, but was unable to deliver the same level of competitive pace in the afternoon.

The German had a spin during the session and seemed ill at ease with his team again. He said his day was “tricky” and had left him with much to do to close the gap.

“We look quite far away from the rest of the field so it’s not ideal,” he said. “We are struggling a bit for one lap and also on the long runs.

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