Sochi: Championship leader Lewis Hamilton put aside his concerns for Jules Bianchi and produced a dazzling lap to top the times in yesterday’s second free practice session ahead of this weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton during Russian GP practice yesterday. Pic/AFP.

The 29-year-old Briton, who was second fastest behind his Mercedes teammate and title rival German Nico Rosberg in the morning’s opening session, wound up quickest in the afternoon with a dominant lap in one minute and 39.630 seconds.

This was eight-tenths of a second faster than the chasing pack led by Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen of McLaren and made Hamilton the only man to break the 1:40 barrier at the newly built track in the Olympic Park close to the Black Sea resort.

“It wasn’t easy to get into the car this morning,” he said, referring to his and the paddock’s sombre mood and feelings for injured Frenchman Bianchi, who remained in intensive care in hospital in Japan. “But this afternoon, I felt more comfortable.”

Alonso is third
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari ahead of Rosberg, Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Briton Jenson Button in the second McLaren.

Five days after Bianchi’s shocking accident at the rain-lashed Japanese Grand Prix, where he suffered severe head injuries when his Marussia car collided with a recovery vehicle, all of the drivers wore ‘Tous Avec Jules’ stickers on their helmets in support of the absent Frenchman.

Bianchi, 25, remained in intensive care in Yokkaichi and his Marussia team chose not to run a second driver in his place at Sochi in a sign of respect as he battles for his life in Japan. “Of course, it is tough,” added Hamilton. “But it was good. It felt good and the grip improved as the track ‘rubbered’ in. The car felt good today and for me the track had a nice flow. I really enjoyed it.” Felipe Massa was seventh in the Williams.