SAO PAULO – Mercedes, which has already clinched the 2017 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship, saw its drivers finish one-two on Friday in both free practices ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season.
England’s Lewis Hamilton, assured of a fourth Drivers’ Championship, and Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas guided the Silver Arrows to the fastest times in both rounds.
Hamilton edged the Finn by just 0.127 seconds in the first free practice and by an even narrower 0.048 seconds in the second.
Though the championship is settled, Bottas has hopes of overtaking Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) for second place.
Vettel’s Finnish teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, took third place in FP1, followed by the two Red Bull drivers – Dutchman Max Verstappen and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo – in the fourth and fifth slots, respectively.
In FP2, Ricciardo and the four-time champ German Vettel claimed the third and fourth positions, pushing Verstappen and Raikkonen down to fifth and sixth.
Despite his solid performance in FP2, Ricciardo faces an uphill battle after receiving a 10-place grid penalty for using an eighth MGU-H.
Times were a secondary concern for most teams in FP1, which sought to get in as much running as possible since rain was expected to roll in Friday afternoon, but the precipitation held off and FP2 unfolded on a dry track.
The forecast for Saturday’s qualifying does call for rain at the Jose Carlos Pace Autodrome, a 4.309-kilometer (2.677-mile) circuit in Sao Paulo’s Interlagos neighborhood.
Hamilton, 32, sealed his fourth world title – and third in the past four seasons – on Oct. 29 at the Mexico Grand Prix.
He had come in with a huge lead over Vettel and secured the crown despite a ninth-place finish (two points), his worst of the 2017 season.