Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton ready for close fight despite perfect start
Can Ferrari and Red Bull recover to battle Mercedes at Interlagos?
By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway at Interlagos
Last Updated: 16/11/17 10:29am
Lewis Hamilton insists he is expecting a "close" weekend at the Brazilian GP despite topping both Friday practice sessions in a dominant Mercedes.
The newly-crowned 2017 world champion led a comfortable double Mercedes one-two at Interlagos, out-pacing Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second in Practice One and a slender 0.047s in Practice Two.
But while the duo enjoyed a tight intra-team battle at Interlagos, they were rarely challenged by Ferrari and Red Bull for one-lap speed - with Daniel Ricciardo closest of all, two tenths off Hamilton in the second practice session.
However, only three tenths split the top five, completed by Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, and Hamilton is still braced for a close fight as he looks to seal his sixth win in eight races since the summer break.
"We've started off on the right foot," said Hamilton, who was adamant that he would not be taking his foot off the gas despite sealing a fourth F1 crown. "We're in a decent position but I think it could be quite close."
And Mercedes executive Niki Lauda added: "Lewis is happy because everything comes to him and he is better than ever before."
The Silver Arrows' Friday form was certainly ominous and was noted by their rivals.
Sebastian Vettel, so disappointed after losing out on the title to Hamilton, explained: "Mercedes looked very strong so I think they are a bit ahead, both of them. Then it's very close between us and Red Bull.
"It will be tough to beat Mercedes, they look very, very quick in all conditions and on all tyres."
Long run average: Supersoft tyre
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:13.127|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:13.722|
Long run average: Soft tyre
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:13.510|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:13.769|
Hope for Ferrari and Red Bull?
Encouragement for Mercedes' rivals would appear to be the long run pace.
Vettel, who recovered from an early spin, was within a tenth of the Englishman's average lap time on the supersoft tyre in Practice Two, while Verstappen was fastest of all on the compound.
The Dutchman completed his supersoft stint at the end of the session, most likely with low fuel, but Red Bull still appear to have a strong race car once again in Brazil.
"I think Mercedes is quick but if we make some improvements then we are there or thereabouts [for victory on Sunday]," said Verstappen, winner of two of the last four Grands Prix.
"We know that in qualifying they can step up their engine a bit more, so we need to be at least the same speed or faster in final practice."