After a close FP1, in which Max Verstappen was under 0.1s behind Lewis Hamilton, on Friday afternoon, the Formula One World Champion showed the true pace of his Mercedes, lapping in a best time of 1:12.271 to top the session from team-mate Nico Rosberg by just 0.030, but by a massive 0.490 over Williams racer Valtteri Bottas.
Quite often on a Friday, Williams do not show their true pace, but they were best of the rest to Mercedes, with Felipe Massa taking fourth ahead of the two Red Bull's of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
The Noah's Ark feel continued as next came the two Ferrari's, Sebastian Vettel and then Kimi Raikkonen in seventh and eighth.
Nico Hulkenberg was ninth, and Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 for McLaren, who had a difficult session, where the expected rain didn't come to fruition.
Last year in qualifying, Fernando Alonso memorably stopped his McLaren and sat, sunning himself, in a deckchair. After losing ERS cooling, he pulled over with 30 minutes left at T2, and began to do keepy-uppys with a stone, before trying his hand as a FOM camera operator. He should stick to the day job on both counts.
Long runs early
As there was a threat of rain late in the session, when long runs were due to be completed, there was a flurry of early on track action, with Ferrari splitting their strategy ot start with, Raikkonen on the Hard tyre, Vettel on the Medium.
The Red Bull's then went 1-2, Ricciardo ahead of Verstappen, both on Mediums, the Aussie having a slight 0.1s advantage as a brief yellow flag was thrown after Marcus Ericsson half-spun his Sauber at T6.
Rosberg then decided that Ricciardo had had long enough at the top of the timing sheets, going nearly 0.6s faster than the 1:13.748 managed by the RB12.
Ricciardo was the first of the front runners to switch the Soft compound in the session, and his 1:12.828 was good enough to take back to P1.
A stewards investigation was launched after Raikkonen and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz engaged in some less than appropriate moves on the climb up the hill from the final corner. The Toro Rosso was ahead, as the Ferrari went around the outside, instead of going to start a new lap, Raikkonen brutely cut across the path of Sainz and pitted in. Thhe stewards, after the session decided there was no case to answer for either driver.
Williams throw a surprise
It is now custom that Williams do not show their true pace on a Friday, but it is hard not to get excited about the fact that they were third and fourth quickest, Bottas even made himself the most unpopular man in Brazil after he ousted Massa, in his final Brazilian GP from top spot, by the margin of 0.028. Rosberg then came through to take that title from Bottas, going 0.5s clear of the FW38.
Hamilton then decided that he wanted that particular title again, and was 0.030 clear of Rosberg, with the 1:12.271 that would remain untouched the rest of the remaining 50 minutes of the session.
After all this early excitement, as the long-runs began, the action died down, although McLaren did their best to liven the action for the locals.
Button reported "three red lights" on his dash, and parked it, whilst Alonso provided more trackside gold in Brazil by trying to film his rivals on the official FOM camera, located on the inside of T2. He could brush up on his camera skills that's for sure.
After these incidents nothing else happened on-track as teams began to understand whether they would be best suited to faster two-stop strategy or more aggressive three-stopper for Sunday's race, provided it's dry of course.
This late drama for the Woking outfit, is a welcome deflector away from the power struggle going on behind the scenes, as reports suggest long-time boss and CEO, Ron Dennis, will be suspended after his fellow shareholders, Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahrain Soverign Wealth fund try to oust him after he brought forward a bid for the team from an unnamed Chinese consortium. Needless to say, Dennis will not be at McLaren in 2017.
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.557|
|6.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.657|
|9.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1.028|
|12.||Danill Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+1.418|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||+1.530|
|14.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1.647|