Three out of three practice sessions topped by Nico Rosberg after the German got the better of his team-mate and championship rival once again in practice.
Nico had secured the top spot in both FP1 and FP2 ahead of Lewis Hamilton for the first time this season. But the gap between the two was marginal to say the least. Not only that, Lewis claimed after the second free practice session that he had not been able to hook up a flying lap which suggests Lewis still has some time to find around the Autodrom Jose Carlos Pace.
Other pointers to take from Friday was the poor pace shown by Button in his McLaren, the interrupted running for Gutierrez in his Sauber & Vergne in his Toro Rosso. As well as Sergio Perez not being able to carry out a single lap in FP2 after Juncadella crashed his Force India in FP1.
But that was all yesterday and come 11am in Brazil, the hour long final free practice session kicked off with Maldonado, Grosjean, Bottas, Massa and Raikkonen all heading straight out on track.
After a handful of drivers joined the early birds out on track for some installation laps, the first times began to hit the board after six minutes with Vergne and Perez. Although the early laps are never flying, Vergne held the early lead with a 1:15:117 before improving the benchmark to 1:13:993 a few laps later.
As the early stages began to tick by, the Toro Rosso pair of Vergne and Kvyat began to draw the benchmark into the 1 minute 12s. However, Vergne would soon lose his top spot as the Mercedes powered Williams’ of Massa and Bottas slotted into the top two.
Now the benchmark sat at 1:12:070 through Massa, with Bottas just one hundredth of a second back. Even Hamilton would have loved to be in that spot after 17 minutes, especially with Lewis suffering with locking under breaking.
Firstly Lewis heavily locked his front right tyre under breaking for turn 8, leaving a large black spot on the tyre. Then just minutes later he was locking up again. But this time the lock up came at turn one along with a spin as he lost control of the rear.
Hamilton was not the only driver struggling to slow down in time, with Jean-Eric Vergne also finding himself taking to the run off at turn 1. But instead of spinning, the Frenchman continued down the run off and used the same escape road Max Verstappen used yesterday morning.
As the end of the first half hour approached, the order stood with Massa leading from Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Alonso, Magnussen, Vergne, Sutil, Maldonado, Button, Vettel, Grosjean, Gutierrez, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Perez and Hamilton. At this stage the only tyre to be used had been the medium compound tyres, but some drivers were beginning to make the switch onto the softs.
Eventually more and more drivers put the pedal to the metal on the soft tyres and the benchmark set by Massa began to tumble. First up came Alonso as the Spaniard flung his Ferrari into P1, bettering the all time lap record for the Autodrom Jose Carlos Pace set by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004.
But still to come were the Silver Arrows with Nico Rosberg shooting his Mercedes above the Ferrari by almost a second. Lewis Hamilton then came across the line in his tweaked Mercedes but lost time over the course of the lap, which ended one tenth down.
When the Williams pair returned to the track on the soft tyres, they were again showing their pace as they locked out P3 and P4. Although Bottas came across the line two tenths down on his team-mate, the Finn still remained within six tenths of a second of Rosberg despite the German’s dominance thus far in Brazil.
And at the chequered flag it was Rosberg who once again had his name above the rest on the time sheet after his 1:10:446 had the better of Lewis by 1 tenth of a second. Ferrari and McLaren were unable to challenge the front order with the two teams locking out P6 through to P9.
Force India will be searching for improvements between now and the start of qualifying after their two drivers ended the session slumped down in seventeenth and eighteenth.
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:11.188||0.742||11|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:11.967||1.521||21|
|17||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:12.324||1.878||17|
|18||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:12.942||2.496||25|