Bottas misses most of final practice, Raikkonen fastest

After last year's win-less campaign it has been a welcome return to form for the Scuderia with Vettel sitting on two races wins while Hamilton and Bottas have one apiece.

Sunday's race starts at 1pm.

Alonso, who will miss the Monaco Grand Prix later this month to participate at the Indianapolis 500, hitched a ride back to the pit lane on the back of a motorbike as his stricken McLaren was towed back to the garage. The switch saw Bottas' auto revert to the engine used at the opening four rounds of the season and he will stick with that power unit for the rest of the weekend.

Fast forward a year, and it's a Mercedes v Ferrari two-way contest, with Valtteri Bottas the man celebrating his first win in Russian Federation last time out.

Hamilton said he was mystified by his lack of pace as he finished fourth to fall 13 points adrift of Vettel after four rounds of the championship. One of those laps was a qualifying simulation, but when he attempted to return to the track for a final run his vehicle stopped midway down the pit lane and had to be wheeled back to the garage.

With the new engine in place, Vettel's vehicle gave him a scare when he slowed down just two laps into qualifying, and his team ordered him to return to the garage.

He managed to pull of into the pit lane exit, from where the auto was recovered and the Ferrari mechanics were able to fix the vehicle and send him out again to set his fastest time. "It is all very marginal with tyre compounds, interaction with the track, the surface of the track and the track temperature itself".

"So fair play to him and he's going to remain a competitor through the rest of the year so the fight will go on and we've stated our relationship with a really great foundation I think, a respectful foundation and I think that will continue".

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, almost one second slower than the Mercedes pair, with Vettel in fourth, and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo next up in the order.

The removed power unit will have the leak fixed and will be used at future races and as a spare.

Hamilton and Vettel both pointed to the unpredictable gusts of wind - in otherwise ideal sunny conditions - that have troubled drivers all weekend. From corner to corner, sometimes you break in the same spot, but you tail off because of a tailwind.

"I'm not sure what we can expect from this weekend", said the Spaniard.

  • Julie Sanders