Bottas leads tight final F1 practice in Brazil as Ferrari steps up

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Valtteri Bottas topped a tightly-contested final Formula 1 practice session ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix for Mercedes as Ferrari made a big step forward from Friday’s running to enter the fight at the front of the field.

Four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to a one-two finish in both FP1 and FP2 on Friday at Interlagos, with rivals Ferrari and Red Bull struggling to put up any kind of real fight at the front of the field.

Ferrari bounced back in FP3 after making tweaks to its cars overnight, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sitting P1 and P3 respectively following their first qualifying simulation runs on the super-soft tire.

Mercedes responded as both Bottas and Hamilton elected to try a second push lap on the super-softs, with the Finn eventually setting the fastest time of 1:09.281 to take P1 at the checkered flag.

Hamilton was left to settle for second after lapping just 0.003 seconds slower, while Raikkonen and Vettel took P3 and P4, with the quartet covered by less than six-hundredths of a second.

With Mercedes and Ferrari poised to fight it out for pole, Red Bull had a tough session as Daniel Ricciardo finished almost a second off the pace in P5, while teammate Max Verstappen took P9 after missing half of the session due to an engine issue and spinning off the track late on.

McLaren led the midfield courtesy of Fernando Alonso, who finished P6 ahead of the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz Jr. took 10th for Renault, finishing 0.1 seconds behind former Toro Rosso teammate Verstappen.

Qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 11am ET on Saturday.