Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had a session-long scrap for supremacy on Friday morning in Interlagos, swapping fastest lap times for much of the 90 minutes. In the end it was the new world champion who emerged fastest, but only by 0.127s.
No other team could get within half a second of Hamilton’s best, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen coming closest, 0.542s off the world champion. Max Verstappen set a near-identical time to the Finn, closely followed by Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo – who has a 10-place grid drop looming – and the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas set the pace initially with 1m 10.102s on the soft-compound Pirelli tyres, as others on supersofts struggled to get close. But Hamilton eventually set the best time on the yellow rubber, and again when Mercedes switched to the supersofts.
In the end, Hamilton recorded 1m 09.202s to Bottas’ 1m 09.329s. The Englishman had a couple of moments, running wide on the entry to the Senna esses on one lap and locking up in another, and was pushed off on to the grass by Nico Hulkenberg after the Renault driver inadvertently ran wide in the penultimate corner after Hamilton had given him room to pass.
Raikkonen got nearest to the silver cars, for Ferrari, with 1m 09.744s, but Verstappen was right with him on 1m 09.750s and Ricciardo and Vettel were close with 1m 09.828s and 1m 09.984s respectively. Vettel had a harmless spin early in the session, possibly on oil laid by Brendon Hartley.
In a disastrous session for Toro Rosso Pierre Gasly was down in 19th place, completing just five laps, and Hartley suffered an engine failure after two laps. Like Ricciardo, both were already facing grid penalties.
Felipe Massa, in his final appearance at a Brazilian Grand Prix, was seventh for Williams, ahead of the McLarens of Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso, which sandwiched Esteban Ocon’s Force India to complete the top 10.
The sister pink car was driven extremely well to 12th place by rookie George Russell, having his first official F1 run at a Grand Prix meeting; the GP3 champion lapped only six-tenths slower than Ocon despite never having seen Interlagos before.
Further back, F2 champion Charles Leclerc just outpaced Sauber regular Marcus Ericsson in 17th.