Rosberg pips Hamilton in third final practice
Nico Rosberg bounced back to top the times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in yesterday’s third and final practice for this weekend’s potentially decisive Brazilian Grand Prix. The world championship leader clocked a best time of one minute and 11.740 seconds on a damp morning at Interlagos to finish the session just 0.093 seconds ahead of the defending champion Hamilton, who was fastest in both sessions on Friday.
Rosberg, who holds a 19-point lead on the Briton with two races remaining, will win his maiden title if he completes a hat-trick of successive wins at the Brazilian event in today’s race. Hamilton has never won in Brazil-one of only two venues on the current calendar that have not provided him with victory-but he also is seeking a hat-trick of three consecutive wins following triumphs in the United States and Mexico last month.
The weather conditions in Sao Paulo were significantly different on Saturday to the heatwave on Friday. The cooler air, coupled with intermittent drizzle, created a very different set of challenges and little or no consistency with the lap times as the drivers and teams went through their final preparations ahead of qualifying later. After struggling on Friday, Ferrari battled through the night to find improvements and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest, ahead of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fifth ahead of Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Jolyon Palmer for Renault. Local hero Felipe Massa was ninth in the second Williams ahead of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren, the Spaniard returning to action after a problematic Friday that saw him suffer a car failure. Meanwhile, Formula One stewards rejected Ferrari’s request for a review of Sebastian Vettel’s Mexican Grand Prix penalty on Friday, arguing that the Italian team had not presented any new evidence to warrant such a move. The governing FIA published their decision in a statement at the Brazilian Grand Prix after a teleconference involving the stewards from the Oct. 30 race in Mexico City and representatives of Red Bull and Ferrari. “Having received all the written and verbal submissions and carefully considered them, the Stewards decide there is no new element,” it concluded.
Four-time world champion Vettel went from fourth on the track to third and then back down to fifth after stewards applied post-race time penalties to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and then himself.
The German was demoted for making a dangerous move while braking as Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo attempted to overtake. The penalty was the first for the offence since drivers were given a written warning at the previous race in Texas about such ‘defensive manoeuvres’.
Ferrari had said on Thursday that it considered “a number of new elements” had emerged to make the race day decision reviewable. The team, third in the championship with Red Bull second, said they felt it was important to have clarity when a precedent was being established.
Ferrari argued that race director Charlie Whiting had the ‘power’ to instruct Verstappen to relinquish a place to Vettel after he went off track to his advantage on the lap before the incident between the German and Ricciardo.—Agencies
SAO PAULO: Mercedes Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, waves after he clocked the fastest time during qualifying session for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, yesterday His teammate Nico Rosberg, right, will depart second and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, of Finland, left, will depart third. —AP