Ferrari lay down a marker ahead of São Paulo Grand Prix qualifying
with Carlos Sainz finishing top of the timesheets in practice. The
Spaniard set a benchmark of a 1:11.732 to finish 0.108secs faster
than teammate Charles Leclerc at Interlagos, with George Russell
third for Mercedes. But the picture is muddied by the lack of Soft
tyre running for so much of the field, with Red Bull, Mercedes and
McLaren failing to set a lap on the red side-walled compound.
Frantic activity With just an hour of running afforded to drivers
before qualifying and a threat of rain hanging over Interlagos for
the afternoon, the track was instantly a hive of activity with all
20 competitors running the Hard tyres. Max Verstappen was instantly
fastest on the white side-walled compound and by the end of the
initial runs found himself just 0.025s faster than teammate Perez,
with George Russell also within a tenth for Mercedes. In a largely
undramatic session, Verstappen complained of a ‘flexing seat’ while
Esteban Ocon warned his Alpine team that a screw had found its way
to the surface of one of his tyres, though the Frenchman escaped a
puncture. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was not so lucky, however,
with his team detecting a rear-left puncture for the two-time
champion on his first set of Hards. Daniel Ricciardo was consigned
to the AlphaTauri garage for around a quarter of the session having
picked up floor damage, though quick repairs allowed the Australian
to return to the track. Lando Norris and Nico Hulkenberg then
bizarrely made contact at Junção with 25 minutes left on the clock
with the McLaren on a hot lap and Haas dawdling, with the stewards
placing the incident under investigation. Both drivers continued
undamaged, though the German reported a loss of power after running
over kerbs in the final 10 minutes. Further issues arose when
Williams was forced to abandon Logan Sargeant’s qualifying
simulation as the American three-wheeled around corners – his front
wheels lifting from the ground. Work quickly began on the left rear
of the FW45 before he returned for the final seven minutes. With
times unrepresentative given the varying programmes being completed
from team to team, the final results show a mixed order. Sainz and
Leclerc led the way having both used Softs, with Russell’s effort
on Mediums good enough for third. Hulkenberg was within two-tenths
of the fastest time with his Soft-tyre run, ahead of Alex Albon’s
Williams – also on the Softs. Lance Stroll put his Aston Martin
ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly for sixth and seventh – both drivers
on Mediums – whilst the final three in the top 10 all ran Softs.
Zhou Guanyu finishing ahead of Sargeant and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen
for Alfa Romeo. Lewis Hamilton was only 12th after running Hards
and Mediums, whilst both Red Bulls ran just the Hards – Verstappen
ending the session 16th and Perez 18th.

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