“Only time will tell if we can get to Sochi without incurring another penalty before introducing a new upgraded unit”.

“Friday’s are usually masked by fuel loads, engine modes and so on, so it would be hard to get a truly clear picture, but our expectation coming into the weekend was this would be a circuit that would hopefully present an opportunity for us, and both drivers have been pretty happy with the auto on short and long runs”. If Hamilton were to put his auto on pole at 2/5 with SportingBet, you’d very much expect him to take the win at the same price with the same people unless his team mate pulls some shenanigans in the pit stops, and that is reflected in the 11/4 VictorChandler have on both the pole and win for the German.

Asked to confirm if the upgrades would be ready in time for Spa, as previously suggested, Horner wearily admitted: “I don’t think there is anything scheduled now before Sochi”.

Kvyat’s lap was an endorsement of Red Bull’s improved showing on the tight, twisty and technical circuit that suited their auto.

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul (BELOW) said: “We know the sport well enough – we’ve been a part of it for 38 years – that without proper funding in place there is no story, no performance”.

“The improvements are positive, but now we have to carry it into tomorrow”.

“A significantly better Renault, I would accept, but as we are now, I don’t think we could go with this performance again next year”, he said.

“I’m keeping my ears open for what’s happening, of what’s being discussed with the team, with Renault, with the team’s future”. But in an ideal world, they wouldn’t exist at all and the money would be split more equally with every team on the grid. “We’ll see what happens after that”.

The day had started with a dramatic morning session that, in addition to Raikkonen’s incident, saw Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India survive unhurt and walk away from a spectacular crash.

The first red flag came out in the opening session when Perez’s wrecked Force India came to rest upside down on the track after what looked like a rear suspension failure pitched the auto sideways into the barriers.

On an eventful day, just 72 hours after the funeral of Jules Bianchi, Hamilton led the way as the drivers demonstrated their respect for the 25-year-old Frenchman who died last Friday by pulling down their visors and showing total commitment.

Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest, 0.719s slower than Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Ferrari.