Ferrari finished one-two in a close second practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, with less than a quarter of a second covering the top three teams.
A rain-affected FP1 was followed by a dry FP2 despite the threat of rain throughout, and it was Sebastian Vettel who duly set the pace with a 1m09.217s. That was just 0.021s quicker than teammate Charles Leclerc, although the latter has a fresh engine this weekend that will result in a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull on a 1m09.351s, edging out the lead Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas by 0.022s. Lewis Hamilton was fifth — a little under 0.1s slower than Verstappen and 0.223s off Vettel — but Alex Albon struggled after his crash in the opening session and ended up ninth overall.
After FP1 ended under a red flag due to Albon’s error, the second session was only five minutes old when Robert Kubica crashed to bring another halt to proceedings. The Pole caught a snap of oversteer in Turn 3 but overcorrected and slide sideways into the barrier on the outside of the track at relatively high speed, damaging the left-hand side of the car.
It’s possible the wet curbs played a part in the crash as Kubica dipped his outside wheels on an exit curb that was still holding plenty of water after rain in the morning, as Kevin Magnussen had highlighted just seconds before when kicking up spray.
The session was only delayed for seven minutes while the Williams was cleared, and teams could get on with soft tire attempts before the long runs. Magnussen ended up in sixth place for Haas ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Albon and Carlos Sainz.
Once running resumed, Daniil Kvyat spun at Turn 1 and then later slid off at the same spot as Albon to again cause the session to end a few minutes early. Unlike Albon, Kvyat barely touched the barrier with his right-rear wheel but couldn’t get going again and was told to jump out of the car with fire at the rear.
It was the second reliability concern for Toro Rosso after Pierre Gasly’s session ended with 20 minutes remaining when he lost power in Turn 3 and coasted to a stop at the pit exit with smoke pouring from the rear of his car. The session was briefly under Virtual Safety Car but Gasly had parked right next to a gap in the barrier and the car was quickly cleared.
Gasly had earlier run deep and slowed at Turn 1, with Hamilton following him and having to take evasive action as he too ran wide. It was the second time Hamilton needed to react, swerving around a slow car in the final sector midway through the session.
The field was closely matched throughout, with Lando Norris in 18th only a little over half a second adrift of Magnussen in sixth.