Brazil GP | Bottas tops FP3 as the Toro Rosso Renault relationship goes nuclear

Valtteri Bottas fastest in final practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

As Valtteri Bottas set the final practice pace, the paddock in Brazil became a war zone as Toro Rosso and Renault hit back at each other amidst an engine fiasco prior to their divorce. Leaving Renault looking at withholding engines, and Toro Rosso questioning the French manufacturer’s credibility. 

Power unit blow out after power unit blow out has left Toro Rosso taking grid penalties on grid penalties. Costing the Red Bull junior outfit vital points in its constructors’ championship fight with its power unit provider, and rival team, Renault.

A power unit provider that claimed Toro Rosso’s recent failures were down to the installation of the units and how they were run. Not the parts provided. A claim the Faenza based outfit did not take lightly.

So much so that Toro Rosso team boss, Franz Tost, has claimed Renault have held back on a supply of new elements. Forcing his Toro Rosso outfit to swap in used components and older specification assemblies.

“We mustn’t forget that they [Renault] are fighting with Toro Rosso for a better position in the Constructors’ Championship, as suggested by Mr Abiteboul [Managing Director of Renault Sport F1] the situation may not be a coincidence, but it is certainly not due to STR’s car.”

Pierre Gasly at the wheel of the Renault powered Toro Rosso during FP2 at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The questioning of Renault’s credibility to provide a competitive power unit to Toro Rosso has left the French manufacturer fuming. To the extent that it is claimed to be looking into its contract in search of a break clause.

Holding back on a further supply of power units to Toro Rosso, that could see the cars driven by Hartley and Gasly not able to compete in the final two rounds. Costing the team points and potential millions in prize money come the end of the season.

One aspect that may cause Renault to hold the rains back on a withdrawal of engines, though, is that Renault is now running Carlos Sainz as its race driver alongside Nico Hulkenberg. With the Spaniard only driving via a loan agreement with Red Bull, the owners of Toro Rosso from whom he transferred from.

However, Renault’s future as a power unit provider does not include Toro Rosso beyond the upcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With Toro Rosso separating for pastures new as Honda’s works outfit, while Renault will begin to supply the soon-to-be ex-Honda powered McLaren.

Red Bull owned Carlos Sainz running for Renault during FP2 for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Away from the engine drama, Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time in final practice for the Brazi Grand Prix. Topping the timesheet for the first time this weekend and carrying the advantage ahead of qualifying.

Bottas’ fastest lap of the hour-long session came 47-minutes through the session during a qualifying simulation run. Taking the top time away from Kimi Raikkonen in the process, after bettering Hamilton with a superb final sector to edge his slower first split time.

Previously, Lewis Hamilton had set the pace across both Friday sessions with Valtteri Bottas coming home second-best. Though Hamilton’s second practice pace was down on his morning best as Ferrari and Red Bull pulled closer.

In final practice, Ferrari once again pulled closer to the front as Raikkonen and Vettel both completed the short Interlagos lap within a tenth of the benchmark set by Mercedes.

Raikkonen also set the pace inside the opening third of the session. Topping the leaderboard with a 1:09.928, albeit nine-tenths down on Hamilton’s FP1 track record.

As for Red Bull, Ricciardo ended the hour fourth fastest. Though Verstappen’s best time, coming on the soft compound Pirelli’s, was only good enough for ninth having sat out a majority of the session to keep the mileage on their Renault power units to a minimum.

In contrast, the Toro Rosso’s were the first to hit the track on the supersoft rubber shortly after the green lights began the session. Making up for the lost track time amidst engine failures on Friday.

As an early runner, Pierre Gasly showed the field that water remained on the exit kerbs following a heavy evening downpour. With the Frenchman splashing water into the air as he ran wide at Turn 12.

With a cleaner lap, Brendon Hartley in the sister-Toro Rosso bettered Gasly’s early pace to set the then benchmark time. Though later falling back behind his team-mate as Pierre improved.

While Hartley set the pace, Lance Stroll’s session came to an end inside the opening 10-minutes after suffering a gearbox failure killing his power supply during his only lap of the session.

Stroll managed to rest the car aside the track to prevent his Williams from rolling down the hill. But having stopped on track, triggered a Virtual Safety Car while marshals removed the vehicle.

Lance Stroll’s abrupt holt will also likely trigger a gearbox change along with possible power unit elements depending on the severity of the incident. Handing the Canadian grid penalties, and his mechanics a lot of work to do in the two-hour window between FP3 and qualifying have not been able to receive the car during the session.

Pos Driver Team Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 24 1’09.281
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 26 1’09.284 0.003
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 20 1’09.326 0.045
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 21 1’09.339 0.058
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 14 1’10.244 0.963
6 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 15 1’10.288 1.007
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 21 1’10.322 1.041
8 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 23 1’10.357 1.076
9 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 9 1’10.495 1.214
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault Renault 23 1’10.599 1.318
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 21 1’10.637 1.356
12 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 14 1’10.671 1.39
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 19 1’10.721 1.44
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 18 1’10.743 1.462
15 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 20 1’10.762 1.481
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Renault 32 1’10.981 1.7
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Renault 30 1’11.085 1.804
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 25 1’11.126 1.845
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 27 1’11.480 2.199
20 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1

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