Carlos Sainz led a Ferrari one-two in practice for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the Spaniard set an 11.792 going just over a tenth faster than teammate Charles Leclerc. The only practice session saw some interesting strategies play out as the teams prepared for qualifying later this afternoon.
Last year’s race winner George Russell put his Mercedes third three hundredths behind Leclerc, however, there could be slightly more pace given he set his fastest time on medium tyre. Nico Hulkenberg going fourth, but neither Red Bull nor Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton set a reprehensive lap.
Hulkenberg who took pole in 2010, was two hundredths faster than Alex Albon’s Williams. Albon being up near the top ten is no surprise, as Williams looked strong last weekend in Mexico City and have favoured circuits which are more technically demanding,
The only hour of practice on a sprint weekend always means drivers need to split runs between qualifying and race sims. Red Bull had set the early pace before Max Verstappen was shuffled to sixteenth given the various strategies needed this weekend, his teammate Sergio Perez could only go eighteenth two tenths off.
Lance Stroll was sixth for Aston Martin going half a second ahead of Pierre Gasly, Guanyu Zhou and Logan Sargeant. While Stroll’s teammate Fernando Alonso was twelfth the two-time champion running limited by a puncher. Sargeant was just over a hundredth faster than last year’s pole sitter Kevin Magnussen.
Like last weekend in Mexico City, times are expected to be close because we are at altitude fine margins will play a role in qualifying, and the field covered by just over two seconds.
Going into qualifying, which sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Red Bull are likely to bounce back but everyone needs to be careful the short lap brings huge risks and communication is key given the likelihood of cars tripping over each other. The entire field was covered by two seconds, while the top ten eight and a half.
Fernando Alonso was eleventh going two hundredths ahead of Lewis Hamilton, the honorary Brazilian citizen goes into this weekend believing this is his best chance to win a race this season, having been in a winless run since Saudi Arabia 2021. Yuki Tsunoda was six hundredths ahead of his Alpha Tauri teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Esteban Ocon was only a thousandth behind Ricciardo, as the Alpine went nearly a hundredth and a half faster than Verstappen. The Dutchman only set a time on the hard tyre, and was a second off Sainz’s session topping time on the hard tyre. Valtteri Bottas split the Red Bull’s the Finn two tenth behind Verstappen and ahead of Sergio Perez by half a second.
Lando Norris was nineteenth just over a tenth faster than McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri, however the Englishman aborted a lap after coming across a dawdling Hulkenberg at Juncao. Norris dived down the inside and ran deep into the corner, and his right rear wheel hit the left front of the Haas in what some interpreted as a car equivalent of a shoulder barge.
Hulkenberg and Norris have both been summoned to see the stewards to explain the incident. McLaren were another team who were off the pace focusing on hard tyre runs as this was the only session before qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix, The other leading runners including Lewis Hamilton, the Red Bulls and McLarens didn’t complete competitive runs on the medium or soft tyres so were down the order.