Mercedes set pace in practice as Bottas edges out Hamilton
Mercedes need to be 43 points ahead by the end of tomorrow’s race to clinch title
Valtteri Bottas squeezed ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes showed their pace in the second practice session yesterday for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Bottas was just 0.003 seconds quicker than Hamilton, who has already clinched his fifth Formula One drivers’ title. Mercedes are now out at the Interlagos track to retain the constructors’ championship.
In a tight session, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was 0.073 seconds behind Bottas in third place, ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen sixth.
The second session was interrupted for around six minutes with a red flag after Renault driver Nico Huelkenberg crashed into a wall, demolishing the right-hand front of his car. The German was, however, unhurt.
Verstappen had set the pace in the opening practice session, ahead of Vettel and Hamilton, on the the 4.309-kilometre Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo.
While the drivers’ championship is settled, Mercedes are out to clinch a sixth straight constructors’ title in the season’s penultimate race.
Mercedes have a 55-point advantage over Ferrari and need to be 43 points ahead by the end of tomorrow’s race to clinch the title before the season’s final grand prix in Abu Dhabi on November 25.
TURBO SWAP HANDS RICCIARDO A GRID PENALTY
Ricciardo will have a five place grid penalty for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix after Red Bull replaced the turbocharger on his car’s power unit.
Stewards said the sixth new turbocharger exceeded the driver’s permitted allocation, triggering the automatic drop.
Team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports television that the problem was a consequence of Ricciardo’s retirement at the previous race in Mexico and the local marshals’ use of a fire extinguisher.
“You can’t really blame them, the car was obviously smoking,” he said.
“But they shot foam up the exhaust and as it solidifies in the turbo, it’s terminated it.
“He’ll take a five place penalty but hopefully on a track like this it’s not actually that big a penalty.”
Ricciardo was first out of the garages in practice at Interlagos yesterday, waiting for several minutes at the end of the pits for the session to start.
Under Formula One rules, grid penalties are applied according to the order in which the offences are committed, as registered by the car’s transponder leaving the pitlane.
That means anyone else who picks up a penalty will have it applied after Ricciardo’s.
The Australian, who is joining Renault for next season, started the previous race in Mexico on pole position before suffering his eighth retirement of the season, twice as many as team mate Max Verstappen.
A disappointed Ricciardo said afterwards that he did not see the point in doing the last two races but soon changed his mind.
“I was angry and upset. At the time I felt like I meant it but deep down I didn’t,” he told Sky Sports television. “It was a good way to express how I felt.
“Fortunately, I tend to wake up Monday morning and it’s like a new day and I can forget pretty quickly the Sunday.”
Mercedes’ Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas powers his car during the second free practice of the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos racetrack in Sao Paulo yesterday.