Dan Ripley for MailOnline

Having stormed to the front of the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to take top spot in qualifying ahead of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton topped Saturday practice by just 0.068 in front of team-mate Nico Rosberg on a weekend where the Mercedes duo look set to fight for victory in Sochi.

Rosberg has won the first three races of the Formula One season to lead the world championship by 36 points in front of his team-mate, so follow live coverage of qualifying for the Russian GP as Hamilton aims to begin a 2016 fightback.

  • Dan Ripley

    Host commentator

Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Felipe Nasr, Pascal Wehrlein, Rio Haryanto, Marcus Ericsson are your drivers eliminated as Renault, Suaber and Manor all suffer double elimination.

First blood Hamilton! The world champion goes top with a 1:36.518 – but is just 0.166 quicker than Nico.

The crucial thing is both look safe to progress to Q2 but there still seems very little separating the Mercedes drivers who ran the supersoft tyre.

Daniil Kvyat of Russia dries the Red Bullaround Sochi in his home grand prix

‘Expecting lots of laps during quali with the fastest supersoft tyre compound taking two or three flying laps to get to optimum temperature.

‘That’s due to the cool conditions and low-grip track surface which is a blessing and a curse for the drivers.

‘It means degradation is low but the chances of making a mistake is high, as we’ve seen the vast majority of drivers do during free practice.’

Good news Ferrari fans. Kimi’s earlier problems with the ERS appear to have been fixed and he will feature from the start for this afternoon’s qualifying.

A potential milestone could be reached today, with Rosberg chasing a 24th pole position that would equal the great Nelson Piquet (the three-time world champion, not the one that binned it in a Singapore wall).

It’s not even silly season in F1 yet, but reports have suggested Jenson Button is talking to Williams about a seat for next year.

Button drove for the team in his maiden F1 season way back in 2000, but the 2009 world champion dismissed links before claiming he would be interested in racing next year.

‘There is no truth in that!’ Button told Sky Sports. ‘I haven’t even spoken to McLaren next year yet – there are still 18 races to go! if I am in competitive position I want to be racing. I want to be fighting.’

McLaren’s Jenson Button has denied he is in talks with Williams for next season

‘Bright and breezy here in Sochi where I was greeted by a sea of red shirts on my walk to the circuit this morning – mostly Ferrari with the odd Bull.

‘Both teams will likely have to be content with being best of the rest this weekend but there’s no shortage of support for the underdogs.’

It’s been some turnaround for Nico Rosberg since he threw away last year’s United States Grand Prix to effectively hand Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton the world championship.

In fact it’s been perfection. Six straight wins have followed. Three to complete 2015 and three to open up 2016. Only multi-world champions Michael Schumacher, Alberto Ascari and Sebastian Vettel have put on a better run of consecutive victories.

But while Rosberg’s 2015 form could be put to Hamilton taking his foot off the gas having won the title, the German’s display to come flying out the blocks this season has been the stuff world champions are made of.

The stats prove it too. As Rosberg targets a fourth straight win in 2016, Sportsmail looks at the previous six occasions when a driver has won the first three opening grand prix and how it led to title success.

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JOE DOWNES: Jenson Button has labelled Lewis Hamilton’s doubters ‘muppets’ and backed his compatriot to get his first win of the season at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton has not stood on top of the podium since securing his third world title at the United States Grand Prix last October.

Nico Rosberg has won all six races since then and the German has a 36-point lead over his Mercedes team-mate in this season’s drivers’ standings.

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JOE DOWNES: Ferrari’s stuttering start to the season continued on Friday as technical problems brought a premature end to Sebastian Vettel’s practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

The German’s afternoon was brought to a juddering halt on the pit straight with an hour of the second session in Sochi still remaining.

Vettel was later hit with a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race following a gearbox change.

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Sebastian Vettel has been forced into a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change and now in the build up to qualifying, Ferrari are frantically working on Kimi Raikkonen’s car to get it ready for the 1pm BST session.

Ferrari are confident the car will be ready, with the team currently trying to fix an ERS session.

If neither Vettel nor Raikkonen can take the fight to Mercedes this weekend, then who can?

Mechanics work on the car of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen during the third practice session

…But what a battle it could be! Nico Rosberg is the championship leader but it’s Lewis Hamilton leading the fightback as he ended Saturday practice fastest…but only just!

Good afternoon, all. Welcome to our live coverage of Russian Grand Prix qualifying

Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the third practice session of the Russian Grand Prix




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