No doubt desperate to end his season with at least one win, Valtteri Bottas topped free practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, albeit just one tenth ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The Finn – who took pole at the same event last season – has been unlucky not to already have a win to his name in 2018, and he’ll be looking to mark an improvement in form heading into next season by converting his pace into a strong performance in Interlagos.
His time of 1:08.846 was enough to head the timing sheets by just 0.003 of a second ahead of Hamilton, whilst Vettel was also 73 thousandths of a second off the pace.
However, the top three can all stake a claim to have not shown their best efforts during that session. Both Bottas and Vettel backed off in their first flying laps and set their best times on a second timed lap, whilst Hamilton made a mistake by locking up in the middle sector.
Vettel’s running was also interrupted by “something loose” in the cockpit, which took a couple of attempts for Ferrari to identify, although this didn’t appear to affect his qualifying simulations.
Daniel Ricciardo was the fourth fastest driver in FP2, ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen, although it was a problematic day for both Red Bulls.
Ricciardo’s weekend got off to a poor start when it was confirmed that he would receive a five-place grid penalty for taking his sixth turbocharger of the season.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confirmed to Sky F1 that the turbocharger had been damaged by a marshal activating a fire extinguisher up the exhaust of the car, reaching the turbocharger.
Verstappen’s session was cut almost exactly in half when the Red Bull team discovered an oil leak at the end of FP1. The lengthy repairs went on into FP2 and the Dutchman only ventured out of the pits with 45 minutes remaining.
He set his only qualifying simulation lap with 30 minutes to go, but he caught a Williams in the final sector and reported to the team that his lap was “compromised”.
In the race simulations, Mercedes didn’t complete many laps on the supersoft tyre, making conclusions difficult against Ferrari and Red Bull, who were closely-matched in the high-1:12s when completing 12-14 lap simulations on the fastest available tyre.
There was a red flag brought out for a crash for Nico Hulkenberg. The Renault driver – who secured his one-and-only pole position at Interlagos in 2010 – put half-a-car on the exit of the final corner and was unable to prevent the car from running wide and into the barrier.
Looking to take advantage of Renault being one car down, Haas finished the practice session as the seventh and ninth fastest, with Romain Grosjean placing his car at the head of the midfield.
They were separated by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, whilst the two Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished tenth and eleventh fastest.
BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m08.846s 48
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m08.849s 0.003s 43
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m08.073s 0.073s 42
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m09.164s 0.318s 44
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m09.339s 0.493s 28
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m09.412s 0.566s 42
7 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m09.769s 0.923s 44
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m09.943s 1.097s 44
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m10.007s 1.161s 39
10 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m10.159s 1.313s 45
11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m10.320s 1.313s 23
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m10.330s 1.484s 44
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m10.332s 1.486s 36
14 Carlos Sainz Renault No time 1m10.458s 1.612s 48
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m10.532s 1.686s 44
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m10.569s 1.723s 46
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m10.596s 1.750s 26
18 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m10.662s 1.816s 44
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m10.734s 1.888s 46
20 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m11.674s 2.828s 6
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
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