SAO PAULO — Less than a tenth of a second separated the top four drivers in final practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas just edging his teammate Lewis Hamilton and the two Ferrari drivers to the fastest time.
Although Interlagos is a short track, the gap of just 0.058s between Bottas in first place and Sebastian Vettel in fourth was remarkably slim in the final practice session ahead of qualifying. While Mercedes still hasn’t improved on Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time from the opening practice session on Friday morning, Ferrari’s drivers made big gains to knock over half a second off their fastest times on Friday.
Vettel was fourth fastest in the group, but recorded the fastest middle sector by over a tenth of a second, suggesting a better first and final sector might see him move to the front of that group in qualifying. However, Mercedes’ tendency to turn up the power for their final flying laps could provide Hamilton and Bottas with the edge in Q3.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest but finished the session over 0.9s off Bottas’ best time, while Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen spun on the exit of the final corner of his hot lap and finished ninth. Ricciardo faces a ten-place grid penalty from wherever he qualifies after a change to his car’s MGU-H ahead of Friday practice.
Fernando Alonso was sixth fastest for McLaren ahead of Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne 0.349s off in 11th behind Renault’s Carlos Sainz in tenth.
Felipe Massa was 12th fastest ahead of his final qualifying session in front of his home fans on Saturday afternoon while teammate Lance Stroll suffered an issue during the session and may not make qualifying as the team attempts to replace his car’s gearbox and power unit in the two hour window before Q1.
Kevin Magunssen was 13th fastest for Haas ahead of the second Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and teammate Romain Grosjean in 15th. Toro Rosso drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley lined up 16th and 17th but both face a grid penalty for changes to engine components earlier this weekend.
The Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson were 18th and 19th ahead of Stroll who failed to set a time.