Marquez extends lead with French GP win

Vettel beats Hamilton to fastest time in final practice in Brazil

10/11/2018

Sebastian Vettel outpaced Lewis Hamilton to top the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix with a new track record.

Vettel went quickest with a 1:07.948 on Saturday, with Ferrari appearing to have the edge over Mercedes in the first and final sector of the Interlagos circuit. Vettel has not won a race since the Belgian Grand Prix in late August and will hope he has the car to end that run this weekend, although it will come too late to have an impact on the outcome of the drivers' championship.

Hamilton's session was delayed early on, with the newly-crowned 2018 world champion crawling back to the pits with smoke puffing from the back of his car. The problem was traced a loose oil breather pipe and, once fixed, he re-emerged to set his fastest lap time. He finished 0.217s off Vettel's best time, with Valtteri Bottas a further 0.3s behind in the other Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen was unable to match Vettel's time and finished 0.5s adrift of his teamate, but the two teams appear to be closely matched ahead of qualifying.

After claiming pole position and victory last time out in Mexico, Red Bull looks set to be third fastest this weekend. Max Verstappen settled for fifth but was complaining on the radio throughout the session about tyre warm-up and understeer. Daniel Ricciardo, set for a five-place grid penalty due to a turbo change, finished sixth but will most likely have worked on a set-up to help him fight back through the order on Sunday afternoon rather than searching for outright one-lap pace.

The Haas drivers continued the team's impressive Friday practice form and finished best of the rest, with Kevin Magnussen leading Romain Grosjean. The American team has admitted it needs "miracles" to overhaul Renault in the fight for fourth in the constructors' with two races to go, but given the French team's failure to finish within the top ten in any of the weekend's three practice sessions so far, it seems like a great opportunity to cut the points deficit ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly claimed P9 as Toro Rosso fitted his car with the latest specification of Honda power unit once more. Charles Leclerc's Sauber was tenth after another impressive performance from the 2019 Ferrari driver. Nico Hulkenberg returned from the crash which curtailed his running in FP2 on Friday afternoon to record 18 laps for Renault, with teammate Carlos Sainz 14th.

Force India's Esteban Ocon and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson finished between the Renault pair, suggesting there will be a tight fight to make the top ten in qualifying later today. However, it should be noted that Ocon is due a five-place grid penalty from wherever he qualifies due to an unscheduled gearbox change ahead of the session.

Williams pair Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll finished either side of 16th-placed Brendon Hartley. Sergio Perez prevented McLaren from occupying the bottom two spots of the order, with the Mexican driver hitting traffic during his low-fuel run and failing to set a representative time. Stoffel Vandoorne finished bottom of the order in a session which saw him have a close encounter with a bird sat on the entry to Turn 1, although he appeared to avoid damaging either the animal or his car.

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