Charles Leclerc, the current GP3 Series championship leader and member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, made his fourth FP1 appearance for Haas F1 Team, subbing for Ferrari Driver Academy alumnus Esteban Gutiérrez. Leclerc’s previous FP1 drives came in July during the British, Hungarian and German Grands Prix. Leclerc’s final FP1 outing will be Nov. 25 in Abu Dhabi.
Leclerc logged a total of 27 laps during the 90-minute session around the 4.309-kilometer (2.677-mile) 15-turn circuit, with his best time coming on his 14th lap – a 1:15.391 earned on a set of Pirelli P Zero White medium tires that placed him 21st overall.
Regular driver Romain Grosjean had an ambitious FP1 program, as he tested the halo cockpit protection device and compared brake packages from two different manufacturers – Brembo and Carbone Industrie.
Grosjean ran the halo during his installation lap, whereupon it was removed for the remainder of the session. Running exclusively on the White mediums, Grosjean tallied 24 laps, with his quickest time coming on his 16th tour – a 1:14.507 that put him 15th overall. Grosjean ran his first nine laps at speed with the Brembo package before switching to the Carbone Industrie package for the rest of FP1.
Leading the way in FP1 was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, whose fast lap of 1:11.895 was .096 of a second better than the next quickest driver, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. Championship point leader and Hamilton’s teammate, Nico Rosberg, was third quick, .230 of a second behind Hamilton. Rosberg leads Hamilton by 19 points heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Gutiérrez was back behind the wheel of the Haas VF-16 in FP2, recording 42 laps in the second, 90-minute practice. He began with a 10-lap baseline run on the Pirelli P Zero Orange hard tire before switching to the Yellow soft tire for his qualifying simulation. It was during this stint where Gutiérrez landed his fastest lap – a 1:14.558 on his 13th tour of the track that placed him 20th on the speed charts. Gutiérrez concluded his session with a high-fuel, long-distance run, starting with 13 laps on used Yellow softs followed by nine laps on used Orange hards.
Grosjean opted for an eight-lap baseline run on a new set of White medium tires to start FP2. His six-lap qualifying simulation, where he too utilized the high-grip but fast-degrading Yellow soft tires, put him 15th overall with a best time of 1:14.074, set on his 11th lap. Continuing to evaluate the new brake materials on his Haas VF-16, Grosjean ended FP2 with a long-distance run. It began with a 15-lap stint on the medium tires he used for his initial drive in FP2 before pitting for a set of used softs that carried him to the end.
Atop FP2 was the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg, with Hamilton again setting the pace. His quick time of 1:12.271 was .030 of a second faster than Rosberg.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 129 laps – 60 by Grosjean, 42 by Gutiérrez and 27 by Leclerc.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“The main item of the day was trying the new brakes. I’m pretty happy with them. I think I’m going to stick with them all weekend long. We’re still not perfect in terms of maps, balance and usage and so on, but the feeling was pretty good. We’ve been struggling a bit with the heat and the temperature of the track, and our afternoon was a little more difficult than our morning. There are a few items here and there to work on to get the car to go faster, but at least we have some direction in where to go and what to do.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“It was nice to get back driving after sitting out FP1. I think it was important just to do our program. It was a little compact fitting it all into FP2, but it went reasonably well in terms of evaluating the car. Now we can improve a lot. I was not very happy with the balance, so we have some work to do tonight to try to put that together. We need to try to optimize everything for tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc, FP1 Driver, Haas F1 Team
“It was great to get back into the car. I love the Interlagos track. It’s my first time here. I love the second sector, especially. It’s very interesting. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a racecar because we’re on a bit of a break in GP3 at the moment, and it’s been even longer since I drove the Formula One car. It was a bit of an adaptation in my first runs this morning, but in the end it all went well. We ran through our program and the team gave me the feedback that I was helpful to them, so that’s all good.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“I would say we had an abnormally good Friday, as Fridays lately haven’t been very good to us. Today we had a problem-free FP1 and FP2. In FP1, Charles drove Esteban’s car and Romain his. It went pretty well. We did our program and made progress. In FP2, Esteban was back in his car and we got through our whole program. It seems like as soon as temperatures go up, our car goes slower and we lose grip. I think we know now how to cure this. We still have work to do, but fortunately the forecast has it getting cooler, so that may help us. But we cannot rely on fortune, so everybody’s working hard to see that we get the performance in the car for tomorrow. We also tested different brakes on Romain’s car. They seem to be working fine. We had no issues. We’ll now review if we continue to use them or not.”
Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (11:00-12:00) before qualifying starts at 14:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds, with the 16 fastest drivers from Q1 moving on to Q2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from Q2 advance to Q3 where they’ll battle for the pole.