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Formula One

FP2: Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2, as a tenth covers top 4 at Interlagos

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Ferrari set the pace in the second practice session for the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, as Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest time, just 0.021s quicker than team mate Charles Leclerc. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was 0.134s off the pace in third, as a late issue for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat ended the session five minutes early.

It was a much drier affair than FP1, although the clouds were painted thick over the Sao Paulo sky, and rain briefly fell midway through the session, pools of water from FP1 being kicked up by drivers who ventured onto the kerbs.

Robert Kubica was one of the first men out, having missed FP1 for tester Nicholas Latifi’s final appearance of the season, but the Williams driver crashed almost immediately with a wicked snap of oversteer at Turn 3.

When the resulting red flag was withdrawn it was Verstappen – who completed just three laps in FP1 – out first, although his progress was briefly hampered by a DRS issue. He ended with 33 laps under his belt.

The Ferraris showed their dominant short-run pace as qualifying runs began after 40 minutes of running, and on soft tyres it was Vettel who set the fastest time. He continued his race programme soon afterwards, content with the SF90’s qualifying pace.

Smoke signalled the end of both Toro Rosso drivers’ sessions in separate incidents, Pierre Gasly (12th) having stopped with an engine issue with 20 minutes remaining and 14th-place mate Daniil Kvyat’s engine cutting out with five minutes to go as he slid through Turn 12 and crashed lightly into the awaiting barrier. Red flags flew, signalling session over.

Mercedes weren’t far off the Ferraris’ short-run pace, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton finishing fourth and fifth respectively, with just 0.223s separating the top five and 0.022s splitting Bottas and third-place Verstappen.

Bottas found himself on the receiving end of Vettel and Hamilton’s annoyance as the Finn seemingly obstructed both of them on flying laps, Hamilton’s late evasive manoeuvre possibly putting the encounter into the ‘near miss’ category.

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Red Bull’s Alex Albon was nowhere to be seen in the top six, having topped FP1 before crashing out of the rain-hit first session. He finished ninth, having locked-up on his low-fuel run, while in P6 it was Kevin Magnussen, whose Haas’s short-run pace has not been the team’s most pressing issue this season

Seventh place went to Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo – who expressed his wish for more podium finishes next season – ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Just 0.067s split Ricciardo and the Alfa Romeo.

Carlos Sainz took 10th for McLaren, just 0.035s behind Albon and a hundredth in front of 2010 Brazilian GP pole sitter Nico Hulkenberg, who still has a chance to out-score his Renault team mate Ricciardo this season.

Underlining just how close qualifying could be on the third-shortest circuit on the calendar, only four-tenths of a second separated Williams’ George Russell in 19th and Albon in ninth. Whether those looming clouds will unleash on Saturday or not is another matter…

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