Alonso surprises with fastest time in final F1 practice
By Mat Coch
Sunday 14th November, 2021 - 3:08am
Fernando Alonso was the surprise name atop the timesheets at the end of final practice for this weekend’s Formula 1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
The Spaniard banked a lap almost 0.9s clear of the pack, suggesting an alternate programme for Alpine.
That was further underscored by Esteban Ocon, who was fourth best, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas splitting the two French cars.
Conditions in Sao Paulo had improved versus those seen on Friday, which was dominated by cloudy and overcast skies.
While the clouds remained in parts, there were large patches of blue above the circuit, though blustery winds added to the degree of difficulty for drivers.
As the session began, interest centred on Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s fate remained unresolved with the stewards.
With Hamilton’s original wing still impounded by the FIA, the team had been granted permission to fit another to the Brit’s car.
Neither he nor title rival Verstappen, also yet to learn the outcome of his own stewards hearing, headed out in the early minutes.
The only representative from either Red Bull or Mercedes to take to the circuit early on was Sergio Perez.
With no need to focus on single lap pace, times were well down on those seen on Friday, Perez’s 1:13.219s set nearly 15 minutes into proceedings the fastest to that point.
The Mexican remained on track after setting that time, a set of soft tyres fitted to his car, as Verstappen toured around for an installation lap before returning to the garage.
His stint in the shed was short, promptly heading back out to leave the two Mercedes drivers the only not to have left the garage.
Verstappen soon went fastest on a 1:12.102 just as Hamilton was climbing aboard his W12 in the garage.
The Brit finally headed out with 20 minutes gone in the 60-minute session, followed soon after by team-mate Bottas.
Hamilton’s focus was clearly on race pace, completing a long run straight up with a best time of 1:14.865s which left him only 15th fastest.
With 20 minutes remaining, Fernando Alonso shot to the top of the timesheets with a 1:12.896s, which reduced to 1:11.238s soon after.
That left him 0.864s clear of Verstappen, while Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine was third fastest on a 1:12.407s.
Antonio Giovinazzi also showed well for Alfa Romeo Sauber with the fifth fastest time, while Kimi Raikkonen in the sister car was eighth best.
Raikkonen had been among the busiest during the session, with 30 laps to his name after 50 minutes.
A couple of late laps from Bottas and Hamilton saw the pair rise to fourth and fifth respectively, 0.5s down on Verstappen.
Bottas rose to third with a lap in the final two minutes of the session, a 1:12.355s leaving him 1.1s away from Alonso’s best.
That was where he ended the session, Alonso and Verstappen both in the garage as the chequered flag waved.
It made for an unusual session to read, with no qualifying simulation laps as teams instead looked at longer runs given only Sprint Qualifying and the race itself remain.
Sprint Qualifying is the next track session, set to get underway at 06:30 AEDT this morning.
Results: Formula 1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Free Practice 2
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:12.102||+0.864s||26|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||1:12.903||+1.665s||29|
|7||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:12.997||+1.759s||37|
|10||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:13.355||+2.117s||39|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:13.426||+2.188s||41|
|14||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:13.608||+2.370s||32|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:13.726||+2.488s||38|
|17||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:13.747||+2.509s||42|