As the São Paulo sky threatened rain, Interlagos hosted the final practice session of the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, decisive to fine-tune each car for the upcoming qualifying.
Kimi Räikkönen was a very early one into the session, posting his first time in 1:09.409, followed by his teammate’s 1:08.8, both running on Supersoft tyres for their qualifying simulation. Mercedes was first represented by Bottas with a 1:09.2, while Hamilton was halted by an engine issue at fire-up.
The Englishman was able to take back to the track some ten minutes later - though his W09 kept smoking from the back, especially through turns 10 and 11 - and his initial effort was a 1:08.9 worth of 2nd place. Behind the two main teams was the pair of Red Bulls, about half a second behind while admittedly focusing on race pace.
With the track offering increasing grip, Räikkönen and Hamilton were able to improve to 08.4 and 08.5, Bottas lapping slightly quicker than both and Vettel pounding down a fairly impressive 1:07.9 which established a very temporary new track record. Leclerc meanwhile was bossing the midfield with a 1:08.6, chased by the Haas’ couple of Grosjean and Magnussen one tenth off.
Hamilton’s next attempt brought him back to 2nd place, 0.2 seconds far away from the German leader: Vettel owned sectors 1 and 3 while his rival stood out in the middle sector thanks to the greater downforce offered by the Mercedes rear wing. Gap to Red Bull, meanwhile, could not but increase: despite Verstappen’s improvement, he and Ricciardo were 8 tenths away.
Significantly, the final run enabled both Haas drivers and Pierre Gasly to improve their laps and overcome Leclerc by a couple of tenths to take the top three places in the very heated midfield battle, while Renault looks just a bit worse on pure one-lap pace. It is worth remembering that Gasly is once again carrying Honda's latest version of Power Unit, which had been prudently removed for the Mexican Grand Prix.
About ten minutes to the chequered flag, Vettel and Bottas started a tiny race-pace simulation on the red side-wall compound to conclude the session with. Thus, Ferrari denied the apparent troubles it had faced yesterday on that particular tyre and, most of all, launched its bid for the pole! The fight takes place in less than two hours' time with Ferrari as the favourites and rivals having to keep a cautious eye on Hamilton’s smokey engine.