Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas once again led the way in second practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix as Red Bull and Ferrari closed the gap.
Following a Mercedes one-two on Friday morning that had Hamilton over half a second clear of third place, the afternoon session – which remained dry throughout despite less favorable forecasts – saw this year’s drivers’ champion some 0.3s slower than his FP1 time with a 1m09.515s.
Hamilton’s teammate Bottas was less than 0.05s adrift in second place after an encouraging start to the weekend, with Daniel Ricciardo leading the challenge for Red Bull with a 1m09.743s. While Ricciardo more than halved the gap from FP1, the Australian is already carrying a 10-place grid penalty for using an eighth MGU-H this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth quickest for Ferrari as he edged out Max Verstappen by just 0.011s, with the pair over a little over 0.35s slower than Hamilton on the short lap. Behind the top five, Kimi Raikkonen led a group of four cars – including Esteban Ocon, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg – covered by less than 0.3s as six different teams got within a second of the fastest time.
McLaren may well have joined Force India, Williams and Renault in being closer to the front three but for a scrappy session that saw both drivers have moments. For Fernando Alonso it was a power unit concern that needed fixing after he had completed just five laps, with Honda managing to get the Spaniard back out before the halfway stage. Alonso ended up 10th fastest overall but was complaining about “stupid” deployment toward the end of the session.
Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne’s issue was more driver error, as he spun exiting Turn 2 during the spell most drivers were setting their quickest lap times of the session. Vandoorne managed to keep the car out of the barrier on the inside of Turn 3 but had to rejoin slowly, having run across the grass and picked up debris on his tires.
Vandoorne wasn’t the only driver to have a spin during the session, as Marcus Ericsson slid sideways after losing the rear of his Sauber at Turn 11. Ericsson reached the tire barriers on the outside of the track and while he was able to return slowly to the pits, he did not emerge again, having managed only 17 laps.
Romain Grosjean also suffered a spin at Turn 4 soon after complaining of a lack of straight-line sped, with the Frenchman making use of the run-off area before rejoining. Grosjean ended the session 15th fastest, directly ahead of the two Toro Rosso drivers who were making up for time lost in FP1 to complete a combined 98 laps. While the strong mileage was a positive, Toro Rosso had to take a new turbo and MGU-H on Pierre Gasly’s car after issues on Friday morning, resulting in an additional 15-place grid penalty to add to the ten he already had.
Slowest of the runners was Antonio Giovinazzi, who took over Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in FP2 as a result of the weather forecast, with a high chance of rain having been predicted earlier in the day. The Italian was 1.2s slower than Grosjean and will hand the car back to Magnussen for the rest of the weekend.