Lewis Hamilton may have won his fifth world title, but Mercedes are yet to clinch the constructors’ championship. That could well happen this weekend if Ferrari don’t end up with a total more than 12 points than Mercedes from the Brazilian Grand Prix. They still haven’t sorted out the problems with the lack of tyre temperature so perhaps it could go down to the last race.
Drivers – 358 Lewis Hamilton 294 Sebastian Vettel 236 Kimi Raikkonen 227- Valtteri Bottas 216 – Max Verstappen
Constructors – 585 Mercedes 530 Ferrari
Points earned in last three races – 58 – Max Verstappen 52 Lewis Hamilton 50 – Kimi Raikkonen
Max Verstappen has been enjoying a successful conclusion to this year’s championship and could yet finish third overall. He got his weekend in Brazil off to a good start by finishing fastest in the first practice session.
It was tight at the top with Verstappen only 0.049 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel with World Champion Lewis Hamilton 0.096 seconds off the pace. Daniel Ricciardo was in fourth, 0.384 seconds behind Verstappen but he’s got a five-place grid penalty for Sunday because of a new turbocharger in his Red Bull. Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest with Valtteri Bottas, just nine points off third place in the championship (note the desperate attempt to build up some interest in the table) sixth fastest. He had a few problems though with a suspected oil leak.
Seventh and eighth places were filled by the two Haas drivers with Romain Grosjean 0.314 seconds ahead of Kevin Magnusson. Charles Leclerc was ninth in his Sauber and the top ten was completed by the Force India of Estaban Ocon.
The second practice session resulted in a 1-2 for Mercedes but It was Valtteri Bottas who was fastest just 0.003 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Third was Sebastian Vettel who was only 0.073 seconds behind Bottas followed by the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth fastest ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Charles Leclerc filled eighth spot with Kevin Magnusson in ninth and Estaban Ocon again tenth.
It wasn’t a great session for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who crashed at the Juncao corner. He went too wide, ran off the kerb onto the grass and hit the wall. No injury sustained thankfully but it did stop the session for six minutes.
Speaking after the session Lewis Hamilton wasn’t too pleased with his Friday with complaints being made over tyres again. He thought the car was running better than in Mexico but admitted “we still have some problem we are trying to work our way through and understand.” He didn’t think the pace was “too bad” though in race simulations, Ferrari did have the upper hand with Vettel about half a second faster. You can argue that it doesn’t matter too much considering Hamilton has already won the title, but he doesn’t want to go again go down the route where he wins the title early and doesn’t win any more races that season.
Mercedes aren’t the only team having tyre problems as Ferrari have a few difficulties too. There were blisters on the rear tyres of Vettel’s car on long runs when using both the softs and super-softs. Vettel said that if it’s hotter on race day (which it’s forecast to be) “it will be more of a challenge.” He added that his car “still doesn’t feel good” but is hopeful of doing well this weekend even though he had a screw loose. Well not Vettel personally but there was one in his car that came loose somewhere between his feet, but it was eventually found.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on final practice and qualifying, till then enjoy your racing.