Sao Paulo Grand Prix – Carlos Sainz was fastest in the only practice of the weekend ahead of qualifying later, as their rivals concentrated on long runs.
Max Verstappen was the first to emerge onto the Interlagos track for the only hour of practice in this, the last of the season’s six Sprint weekends. With such limited track time before cars go into parc ferme conditions at the start of qualifying later today, it was no surprise that most drivers were out on track as soon as the session started, the Williams drivers being the last to emerge, almost ten minutes into the session.
The first time on the board was a 1:13.950 set by Verstappen on the hard compound tyre, which all cars were on at that point. The Dutch driver did have concerns about whether his seat was installed correctly as he felt it flexing, but Red Bull allayed his worries saying that it was not a safety concern.
The reigning champion wasn’t the only one with early issues, Esteban Ocon letting Alpine know that there was a screw lying horizontal on his front tyre, while the right mirror on Oscar Piastri’s McLaren broke.
With fifteen minutes completed, Verstappen remained at the top of the times with a 1:13.138, with teammate Sergio Perez a quarter of a tenth off his pace while Lewis Hamilton was three tenths back in P3.
Twenty minutes into the session Fernando Alonso was informed of a rear left puncture, so he had to head back to the Aston Martin garage. Yuki Tsunoda was the first driver to put on medium tyres, and he jumped to the top of the timesheets with a 1:12.802 while his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, was garage-bound for quite a while as there was floor damage on his AlphaTauri.
A medium-tyre runner was still in the P1 spot at the halfway point but this time it was Mercedes’ George Russell with a 1:11.865 while Alonso and Verstappen, still on the hards, had beaten Tsunoda’s time to go P2 and P3, the two were still over seven tenths off the Brit’s time.
There was an on-track collision a few minutes later when Nico Hulkenberg, on a slow lap, turned in on Lando Norris, who went slightly wide as he went down the inside of the Haas driver. The two seem to have escaped without much damage though the Stewards did note the incident.
Russell remained at the top of the times as the clock ticked down into the final fifteen minutes though Hulkenberg, obviously not affected by his little clash with Norris, had gone into P2, just 0.063 seconds behind Russell, who is in the #63 car. Kevin Magnussen in the other Haas had also made it towards the front in his soft-shod Haas but he was nearly seven tenths further back in P3.
There was something strange with Logan Sargeant’s Williams in the final quarter of an hour, the American telling his team that there was something wrong with his front left and it was coming off the ground. Williams said they would look into it and a couple of minutes later Sargeant was back on the radio worriedly telling them that both front wheels were coming off the ground in some corners. He pitted and Williams fixed a rear-left suspension issue before sending him back out for the final few minutes.
Ferrari put softs on their cars at the end and that saw Sainz go to the top of the charts with a 1:11.732 with Leclerc just a tenth back in P2. Russell’s earlier time on the mediums was good enough for P3, only 0.133 slower than the fastest lap.
Hulkenberg and Albon in P4 and P5 as well as Zhou Guanyu, Sargeant and Magnussen in P8-P10 set their best times on softs while Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly took P6 and P7 with medium tyres.
Verstappen and Perez ended FP1 in P16 and P18 but they completed the whole session on the one set of hard tyres each. The bottom of the timesheets was occupied by the McLarens, they spent most of their time doing long runs on hards like Red Bull but did slot a set of soft or medium on each car though they didn’t set a time while on them.