Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the final practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, topping Max Verstappen by just 0.026s at Interlagos.
Dry weather and warmer temperatures compared to Friday gave the teams new conditions to work with and it was Mercedes that hit the front after Ferrari topped FP2. Hamilton’s best lap of 1m08.320s was more than a second quicker than he had managed on Friday, but two laps from Verstappen got the Red Bull driver within 0.1s of the six-time champion, the first of which was aided by a tow in the final sector.
Verstappen finished ahead of the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, with the latter only finding 0.6s compared to yesterday’s running. The Ferraris did set their laps earlier than Hamilton and Verstappen, however, with Leclerc ending top 0.291s adrift of Hamilton and Vettel half a tenth further back.
Leclerc will take a 10-place grid penalty ahead of the race for an internal combustion engine change this weekend, which could impact on his run plan. In a largely trouble-free session on Saturday, the main incident of note occurred when the Monegasque driver had to take avoiding action after nearly running into the back of Carlos Sainz at Juncao.
Same late laps from Alex Albon enabled him to beat Valtteri Bottas to fifth place, although the pair were both over 0.8s off the pace. While Albon is getting up to speed with another new track and crashed on Friday, Bottas struggled for a clear lap as emphasized by the 0.2s gap to Daniil Kvyat — who was complaining about the Toro Rosso’s handling — in seventh place.
Antonio Giovinazzi, Lando Norris and Sainz rounded out the top 10, with the two McLarens separated by just 0.003s ahead of what looks likely to be one of the closest-fought qualifying sessions of the year.
The short nature of the track means lap times are extremely close, and Kvyat in seventh finished the session less than 0.4s clear of Romain Grosjean in 16th place. The only two teams not in that mix were Racing Point — with Sergio Perez over half a second off Kvyat down in 17th and Lance Stroll 18th — and the Williams pair of George Russell and Robert Kubica.