SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 09: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 9, 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)

Mercedes and the Scuderia Ferrari look prepared to have a battle in the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix. Although Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen went fastest in FP1, the contenders for the constructors’ title stepped up in FP2.

Takeaways from Friday Practice

Valtteri Bottas edged his teammate, five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, by 3 thousands of a second in FP2. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third 0.073s behind Bottas. Bottas’s lap time (1:08.846) and is just five tenths slower than his pole lap in the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Both free practice sessions were in dry conditions, although many clouds were covering the circuit. The Pirelli tyre choice for this race, for dry conditions, are the white-striped medium tyre, the yellow-stripped soft tyre, and the red-striped supersoft tyre.

The main takeaways from the two practice sessions were:

  • Mercedes and Ferrari look stronger than Red Bull in Brazil. Predictably, the Austrian team lost some of the performance that helped Verstappen take victory in México.
  • Many drivers found issues under braking in the middle sector of the track. Tailwind was probably the main reason for that problem.
  • In the race simulations, Vettel set the benchmark in terms of the fastest lap and the best pace. However, the four-time champion could not make his tyre last long enough. He experienced blistering on the right rear in both the soft and supersoft tyres.
  • Hamilton and Bottas were able to be consistent with both set of tyres and the Mercedes’ rear tyres did not blister.
  • Renault‘s Nico Hulkenberg forced a red flag situation at the start of FP2 after a heavy crash. The German was able to walk away, but his car sustained a lot of damage in the right-hand side. Hulkenberg lost the car on the run to the top of the hill in the third sector and his day ended after a few minutes into the session.
  • Daniel Ricciardo had a good day. The Australian finished fourth in both sessions, three tenths off of the leader. However, the Red Bull driver is set to suffer grid penalties for a change of his turbocharger.
  • Haas’ Romain Grosjean had a great start to his weekend. The Frenchman claimed P7 in the two events. He was the only driver outside of the top three teams able to be less than a second off the leader.
  • Verstappen went fastest in FP1 but had issues with his car at the start of FP2 and his running was limited. The Dutchman finished fifth in FP2 and had 28 laps around the circuit. Verstappen was joined by Sergio Pérez as both drivers had problems to start FP2. The Mexican did not participate in FP1 and only drove his Force India for 23 laps in the afternoon.
  • Haas seems to be dominating the midfield. Kevin Magnussen lined up behind his teammate, Grosjean, in P8 in the morning session. While Sauber‘s Charles Leclerc claimed P8 in the afternoon, with the Dane behind him.
  • Force India, Renault, Toro Rosso, and maybe McLaren, will battle for the last spots inside the top 10 come Sunday’s race.

The Last Word

The 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix is looking much like last year’s race at São Paulo. Ferrari and Mercedes should fight for Sunday’s pole and in the race. However, the unpredictable Brazilian weather could put Red Bull into the mix and other teams who can take advantage of tricky conditions.

Results of FP1:

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.011 16
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:09.060 +0.049s 20
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:09.107 +0.096s 28
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.395 +0.384s 23
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:09.573 +0.562s 28
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:09.679 +0.668s 23
7 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:09.922 +0.911s 28
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:10.236 +1.225s 15
9 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:10.346 +1.335s 28
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:10.361 +1.350s 34
11 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:10.662 +1.651s 34
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:10.679 +1.668s 34
13 36 Antonio Giovinazzi SAUBER FERRARI 1:10.685 +1.674s 29
14 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:10.799 +1.788s 30
15 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:10.934 +1.923s 30
16 47 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:11.013 +2.002s 28
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:11.037 +2.026s 30
18 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:11.176 +2.165s 32
19 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:11.452 +2.441s 23
20 34 Nicholas Latifi FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:11.493 +2.482s 34

Results of FP2:

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:08.846 48
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:08.849 +0.003s 43
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:08.919 +0.073s 42
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.164 +0.318s 44
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.339 +0.493s 28
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:09.412 +0.566s 42
7 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:09.769 +0.923s 44
8 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:09.943 +1.097s 44
9 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:10.007 +1.161s 39
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:10.159 +1.313s 45
11 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:10.320 +1.474s 23
12 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:10.330 +1.484s 44
13 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:10.332 +1.486s 36
14 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:10.458 +1.612s 48
15 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:10.532 +1.686s 44
16 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:10.569 +1.723s 46
17 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:10.596 +1.750s 26
18 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:10.662 +1.816s 44
19 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:10.734 +1.888s 46
20 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:11.674 +2.828s 6

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