Ferrari has topped a busy sole practice session at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix after both McLaren drivers abandoned laps that likely would have put them in top spot.
Carlos Sainz took to the track late on softs and clocked the Interlagos circuit at 1m 11.732s. Teammate Charles Leclerc followed him at 0.108s adrift. But most drivers opted not to use the soft tire for a one-lap simulation in a difficult-to read session focused largely on long-run performance for the sprint and the grand prix.
Just eight drivers sampled the red-marked tire, including the Ferrari teammates. Mercedes’ George Russell in third used a new set of mediums for his flying lap early in the session and ended up just 0.133s off top spot, placing him in a theoretically better position accounting for the differences between compounds.
Oscar Piastri was another driver to break in a set of softs. The McLaren rookie claimed purple sectors at the first two splits and set for a time that would have put him among the Ferrari drivers but bailed into pit lane before setting his time, instead completing the rest of the session on the hard tire.
Teammate Lando Norris did likewise with a fresh set of mediums, getting to within around 0.15s of his teammate before abandoning the lap. They instead propped up the time sheet at the bottom of the pile.
Nico Hulkenberg was fourth fastest on a set of softs at 0.196s off the pace but ended the hour complaining of a loss of power after rumbling over the curbs exiting Turn 4. The German also ends the session facing a stewards investigation for an unusual collision with Norris at Juncao.
Hulkenberg appeared to be on a cool-down lap on the racing line when Norris came steaming behind him, forcing him to dive down the inside. Norris ran slightly deep, resulting in contact as Hulkenberg turned in. Neither car was damaged in the incident.
Alex Albon was fifth for Williams on softs ahead of Lance Stroll, who was next-best on medium tires in sixth. The Aston Martin was 0.404s off the pace ahead of fellow medium-shod Pierre Gasly, while Zhou Guanyu used softs on his way to eighth.
American rookie Logan Sargeant endured a difficult session with rear suspension problems that sent him spearing over the run-off at the first turn and otherwise left him three-wheeling around much of the circuit. Quick repairs late in the hour got him out in time for a run on softs, putting him ninth ahead of Kevin Magnussen.
Fernando Alonso used the hard tire on his way to 11th ahead of Lewis Hamilton and AlphaTauri teammates Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian suffering floor damage early in the hour required ad-hoc repairs.
Esteban Ocon led home Max Verstappen — who used only one set of hard tires for the entire hour — Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, who likewise used just the white-walled tire for the session.
The unrepresentative Norris and Piastri completed the order in 19th and 20th.