Mercedes had the edge on their rivals in Friday practice as Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Just three thousandth of a second separated the Finn from the world champion, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel less than a tenth down on the Silver Arrows at Interlagos.
Hamilton was third in the morning as Max Verstappen set the pace in opening practice.
Valtteri Bottas was fastest in second practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlgos
Max Verstappen clocked the fastest lap of the first practice at the Brazilian Grand Prix
Red Bull driver Verstappen was 0.049 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel
World champion Lewis Hamilton could only manage third fastest at Interlagos, Sao Paulo
The left side of Hamilton’s crash helmet now features five stars to mark his recent title success
Hamilton, back in his Mercedes cockpit for the first time since winning his fifth world championship in Mexico a fortnight ago, was just 0.096 seconds slower than Verstappen at the Interlagos circuit.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel split Verstappen and Hamilton, half-a-tenth off the Dutchman’s pace.
Hamilton has failed to win a race after clinching the championship with rounds in his pocket.
In 2015, Nico Rosberg won the last three grands prix of the season, before Vettel and Valtteri Bottas claimed a win each last year.
But the British driver, sporting a fifth championship star on his crash helmet to honour his latest title triumph, is keen to add to his tally of just one victory at the home of his boyhood hero, Ayrton Senna, yet on the evidence of the opening running may have his work cut out.
Just as in Mexico, Verstappen, who claimed his second win of the year, set the early pace, while Vettel and Ferrari, who must outscore Mercedes by 13 points on Sunday to stop them from winning a fifth straight constructors’ crown, was also ahead of Hamilton in the pecking order.
BRAZILIAN GP SECOND PRACTICE
1 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:08.846
2 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:08.849
3 Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:08.919
4 Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:09.164
5 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:09.339
6 Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:09.412
7 Grosjean (Fra) Haas 1:09.769
8 Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 1:09.943
9 Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:10.007
10 Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:10.159
11 Perez (Mex) Force India 1:10.320
12 Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso 1:10.330
13 Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:10.332
14 Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:10.458
15 Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 1:10.532
16 Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:10.569
17 Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:10.596
18 Stroll (Can) Williams 1:10.662
19 Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso 1:10.734
20 Hulkenburg (Ger) Renault 1:11.674
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel split Verstappen and Hamilton, half-a-tenth off the Dutchman’s pace
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull, 0.384 seconds down on his team-mate Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull, 0.384secs down on his team-mate, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, and Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Bottas was sixth in the order.
British teenager Lando Norris replaced Fernando Alonso for the first session as he continues his preparation ahead of his full debut for McLaren next year. Norris finished 16th, four-tenths of a second faster than Stoffel Vandoorne in the sister car.
Norris has now finished faster than Vandoorne in all four practice sessions that they have taken part in together this season. In a relatively incident-free session, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished seventh and eighth for Haas ahead of the Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc, and Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
BRAZILIAN GP FIRST PRACTICE
1 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:09.011
2 Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:09.060
3 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:09.107
4 Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:09.395
5 Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:09.573
6 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:09.679
7 Grosjean (Fra) Haas 1:09.922
8 Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:10.236
9 Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 1:10.346
10 Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:10.361
11 Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:10.662
12 Hulkenburg (Ger) Renault 1:10.679
13 Giovinazzi (Ita) Sauber 1:10.685
14 Stroll (Can) Williams 1:10.799
15 Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso 1:10.934
16 Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:11.013
17 Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:11.037
18 Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso 1:11.176
19 Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:11.452
20 Latifi (Can) Force India 1:11.493