Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Nico Rosberg used the mixed conditions during the final practice session in Brazil to his advantage. The championship leader set the pace in the practice session on Saturday morning. The session started with most drivers running on either intermediate or full wet tyres after a rain shower. Rosberg led the way for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team with a time of 1:11.740, just 0.093 seconds ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was the first driver to head out onto the circuit on the soft compound tyre but after having a couple of off track moments at turn four he returned to the pit lane. Soon after it was noticed that dry tyres were the way to go. The Williams Racing drivers initially hit the top spot, both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas had to avoid an umbrella that had blown onto the apex at turn one from the crowd. Behind the leading two came the Scuderia Ferrari drivers with Sebastian Vettel able to set lap times just under the 1:12 lap time barrier. Vettel got within 0.219 seconds of Rosberg’s time, Kimi Raikkonen just missed out on the 1:11 lap times by just 0.027 seconds.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finished in fifth, just 0.050 seconds behind Raikkonen. Verstappen proving just how tighth it could be during the important qualifying session later in the day whilst teammate Daniel Ricciardo did qualifying simulations and finished the session in sixth with 0.547 seconds between he and Rosberg. The gap between the two Red Bull drivers was just 0.210 seconds.
Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished the session in seventh and ninth but were unable to match their positions from Friday. In between the two Williams’ cars was Renault’s Jolyon Palmer in eighth. The Brit heads into this weekend knowing his future in Formula one is secure for another year as he signed another year deal with the Renault team.
Early in the session the McLaren Honda team were worrying that they may have to change Fernando Alonso’s gearbox, which would bring a five place grid drop penalty with it. Alonso managed to get some good running done during the second half of the session. He ended the session in tenth, it was vital for Alonso to get in some track time after having to stop at turn three in the second session on Friday.
Neither of the Force India drivers managed to make it into the top ten, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished in eleventh and twelfth. Kevin Magnussen finished the session in thirteenth for Renault. The Danish driver confirmed he will be moving to the Haas team for 2017. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr finished in fourteenth.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean finished in fifteenth despite having a spin late in the session at turn four, he reported to the team that he felt the spin was weird. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez, who is being replaced by Magnussen next year, was just behind in sixteenth. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat finished the session in seventeenth ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren Honda. The Brit had a small moment towards the end of his own session when he looked to have a telemetry problem that saw him stop briefly on the circuit before heading back to the pit lane.
Manor Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon finished in nineteenth and twenty-first. Splitting the two Manor driver’s was Sauber’s Felipe Nasr. Marcus Ericsson failed to set a representative lap time during the session due to having engine issues. The engine needed changing ahead of qualifying.
©Fay Tilley 12th November 2016.