FP2: Weekend of surprises continues as Esteban Ocon tops Sao Paulo GP practice

Esteban Ocon's Alpine at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Interlagos November 2022. Credit: Alamy
Esteban Ocon's Alpine at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Interlagos November 2022. Credit: Alamy

An unpredictable weekend at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix continued as Alpine’s Esteban Ocon set the fastest time in final free practice.

After one of the biggest qualifying shocks in recent times as Kevin Magnussen grabbed pole position for the sprint, another unlikely name topped the standings.

It may not have been truly representative with fuel loads unknown, but the result meant Ocon, who will line up sixth for the sprint, gained an unexpected boost for the action that was due to follow on a couple of hours later.

The Frenchman was 0.184sec quicker than Sergio Perez, with George Russell and Ocon’s team-mate, Fernando Alonso, rounding out the top four ahead of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Unlike the murky, near-dark conditions for the end of qualifying the previous evening, there was blue sky and sunshine mixed in with a few grey clouds as the pit lane opened for the second and final free practice session of the weekend.

First man out, on his final Interlagos appearance, was Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin, soon followed by the man intended to be Alex Albon’s team-mate at Williams next year, Logan Sargeant.

The American was in action with the plan of adding another Super Licence point to his tally for racking up 100km of F1 mileage – and will aim to reach the ultimate target of 40 when he completes his Formula 2 Championship campaign in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Sargeant was in Albon’s car, the Thai instead spending some of the session in the Sky F1 commentary box, and the 21-year-old Floridian duly clocked up the distance he needed, out of the car and back in the Williams hospitality suite with nearly 10 minutes remaining.

A mixture of tyre compounds were used by the early runners, Mercedes duo Russell and Hamilton on the softs and hards respectively, as Albon saw his soon-to-be-ex team-mate Nicholas Latifi bring out the first yellow flags for an excursion across the grass.

Russell set the early standard with a 1:14.916 as he put his qualifying ‘off’ behind him, having suggested his mechanics would be in for a long Friday night stripping the car down to remove all the gravel from the nooks and crannies.

The Briton was deposed from top spot by Ocon’s soft-tyred Alpine approaching the halfway mark of the session, the Frenchman going three tenths of a second quicker, as most drivers switched to the red-marked rubber on which they are likely to contest the sprint – weather permitting.

Perez’s time set on hard tyres was standing up extremely well in P4 and when he changed to the softs, the Mexican leapt up to P2 but still the best part of two tenths down on his former Force India team-mate. He also had three tenths in hand of his current colleague, Verstappen, with race sims clearly the order of the day in some quarters.

That meant no significant changes to the order in the closing stages, though Magnussen and his Haas team will have derived further encouragement from having both of their cars in the top 10, the Dane in ninth – one position behind his team-mate Mick Schumacher.

Times

1 Esteban OCON Alpine 1:14.604
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.184
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.312
4 Fernando ALONSO Alpine +0.445
5 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull +0.494
6 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.533
7 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +1.032
8 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 +1.080
9 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 +1.211
10 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.247
11 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.252
12 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.261
13 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +1.264
14 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren +1.390
15 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.443
16 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +1.577
17 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.659
18 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin +1.796
19 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.864
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.876

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