Hamilton hits jack man as Bottas sets pace in free practice

(IANS): Formula 1 drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton is having bad time. Two weeks back he was involved in a crash with title contender Max Verstappen while on Friday, he sent flying his team’s front jack man during second practice for the Russian Grand Prix here.

His team Mercedes confirmed that the jack man sent flying by Hamilton was unhurt in the incident.

Hamilton came into the Mercedes pit box too fast during FP2 and overshot his marks, knocking the front jack man over. The crew member was left on the ground as Hamilton apologised over the radio and asked if he was hurt.

“For everyone asking, our front jack man is OK,” Mercedes tweeted later in the session.

The incident did not have any impact on the reigning champion as he finished second behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas, in FP2 for this weekend’s race – while title rival Verstappen will start at the back of the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday after taking a new Honda power unit.

Bottas set the pace in both free practice sessions as Mercedes retained their stranglehold at Sochi as their drivers set impressive pace. Hamilton ended the afternoon second fastest just 0.044s slower than Bottas, who always goes well in Sochi and topped the times for the second successive session this year owing to a stronger final sector.

Verstappen, who was the fifth fastest, was running a very different programme, though, with his Red Bull team electing to give him a full engine change that trigger penalties — in addition to his three-place drop for his part in the collision with Hamilton in Italy — to ensure he’ll start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid, said a report on the official website.

Pierre Gasly was a surprise quickest, 0.252s off the pace on the medium – which was the same tyre the leading Mercedes setting their best time on, but his session came to an end with just a few minutes to go when he ran over a kerb and ripped off his front wing. McLaren’s Lando Norris clocked the best lap on the soft, albeit half a second off the pace.

It was a very busy session, with teams keen to gather as much data as possible given wet weather is predicted for final practice on Saturday. There was frustration, then, for Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Gioviunazzi — albeit for very different reasons, said the report.

Ricciardo, winner last time out in Italy, missed half the session while his team completed an engine change to one already in his pool having detected an issue on the data. McLaren said it could be fixed outside of the car this evening. When he did hit the track, his best time was only good enough for 17th.

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