Valtteri Bottas beat teammate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.003s in a Brazilian Grand Prix FP2 that saw Max Verstappen suffer reliability issues and Nico Hulkenberg crash.
In another extremely close session, Bottas set the pace with a 1m08.846s to edge out Hamilton by a tiny margin at Interlagos, with Sebastian Vettel also just 0.073s off the pace in third place. It was the second consecutive session where the top three were covered by less than 0.1s after Verstappen, Vettel and Hamilton had been in FP1, but the Dutchman carried out limited running in the afternoon.
An oil leak on Verstappen’s car meant the Red Bull driver was confined to the garage at the start of second practice, missing the first half of the session before he finally was able to join the track. Team principal Christian Horner said a crack in the oil tower in the engine was discovered during FP1.
Verstappen would have missed out on more running but for Hulkenberg’s crash, which brought out the red flag after only nine minutes when he went off exiting Juncao. Hulkenberg ran slightly wide on the way out of the final proper corner on the track — as many drivers had done in FP1 — but didn’t recover the car in time and lost control once the car was fully on the grass. The Renault hit the barriers on the outside of the track, heavily damaging the right-hand side of the car and leading to an eight-minute delay.
When the red flag was shown, Vettel — who was making his way back to the pits — reported on team radio: “There’s something loose between my legs… apart from the obvious. Something flying around my feet. I’d be proud if it was what you think it is, but it’s not!”
After the humor subsided, Vettel twice returned to the garage to have the area around the pedals examined; Ferrari suspected some debris from Hulkenberg’s crash might have entered the cockpit.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth overall — 0.3s adrift of Bottas — while Verstappen was still able to recover to fifth, half a second off the pace. Kimi Raikkonen was sixth in the second Ferrari ahead of Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon as the same ten drivers filled the top ten in both FP1 and FP2.
Directly outside the top ten, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso were covered by just 0.012s, with the Toro Rosso running an older specification of Honda power unit throughout Friday ahead of a planned switch to the latest engine on Saturday.
Haas will take heart from two strong sessions while Renault hit trouble, with Hulkenberg’s crash at the start of the session followed by Carlos Sainz being 0.7s slower than Romain Grosjean.