Valtteri Bottas led a Mercedes one-two in the second practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, as he edged team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.003 seconds.
Despite ending up sixth in the opening practice session, Bottas vaulted to the top of the times with a 1m08.846s on the third lap of his FP2 qualifying simulation run.
Bottas had not led an FP2 timesheet since the 2017 Italian Grand Prix and was nearly denied in Brazil by Hamilton.
The five-time champion recovered from a scruffy first lap on the supersoft tyres to close to within 0.003s of his pacesetting team-mate later in the run.
Hamilton had previously set an impressive soft tyre short run pace. In the opening stages of the 90-minute practice, Hamilton recorded a 1m09.245s which would have still put him fourth on the final timesheet had he not improved on the supersoft.
As was the case in FP1, the top three were separated by less than a tenth, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third and only 0.073s behind Bottas.
This was in spite of Vettel’s session being compromised by the German reporting something moving between his feet in the cockpit. The team twice investigated the issue and deemed it to be debris.
It was believed to have been picked up after Nico Hulkenberg crashed his Renault on the exit of Juncao at the start of the final sector.
Hulkenberg ran wide onto the grass and slid into the barriers, stripped both right-hand wheels off of the car only 10 minutes into the session. It caused the only red flag of the day.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth, ahead of Red Bull team-mate and FP1 pacesetter Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman spent the first 45 minutes of the session stranded in the garage while the team replaced the oil tower in his car. It is suspected that the component was first fractured en route to Verstappen’s Mexico GP triumph.
Despite Verstappen’s late qualifying simulation being compromised by Lance Stroll in the third sector, he still managed to edge Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver ended the day in sixth place and was the first to post a supersoft qualifying simulation.
Romain Grosjean was best of the rest for the second consecutive session in seventh place. Sauber’s Charles Leclerc split the Haas duo by ending up eighth ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who lost his right mirror in the closing minutes.