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Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in final practice

NEWS STORY
20/10/2018

Following yesterday's two soggy sessions, conditions are a little improved today. By which we mean that it is not raining.

It remains, damp, cloudy and chilly, but it is not raining. That said, there is a 20% chance of rain. Air temperature is 18.6 degrees C, while the track temperature is 20.6 degrees.

Despite the limited running, Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in both sessions, while Sebastian Vettel managed to further compromise his already slim title hopes by getting a three-place grid penalty for not slowing sufficiently during the red flag period in FP1.

Also taking penalties will be the Toro Rosso duo, both drivers having taken on new power units after Honda discovered issues with those used at Suzuka.

Despite the season nearing its completion the development continues, with said Faenza outfit bringing a range of updates, as has Ferrari, including a new floor. Hopefully, improved conditions today will allow the teams to use them.

That said, both Ferraris appear to be using the old floor.

With these conditions expected to continue into tomorrow, and with yesterday's sessions, literally, a wash-out, we expect it to be busy from the get-go this morning.

Leclerc and Sainz are side-by-side at the end of the pitlane waiting, and within moments there are eight drivers on track including Raikkonen.

As more drivers emerge there is a mixture of all three compounds, soft, supers and ultras.

In moments there are times on the board, with Raikkonen posting a benchmark 35.514. Moments later, Vettel posts 35.533.

Verstappen posts 37.575 and Ricciardo 37.700 as the Mercedes pair head out.

"I've got a lot of traffic around me," says Hamilton, said traffic including Vettel who is in no rush to allow the Briton through.

The various compounds, not to mention time differences, indicate that the teams are running different strategies.

Ricciardo complains of a lack of rear grip.

Clearly running his own programme, Hamilton goes 11th with a 40.519, 5s off Raikkonen's pace. Bottas is 12th, the Finn on ultras while his teammate is on supers.

"Something just hit my head, so check the car," says Hartley, the kiwi, somewhat ironically having been hit by a fairing from his Halo.

"Grip is very poor," reports Hamilton.

Ocon goes third with a 36.856, the Frenchman on softs. Vandoorne, on supers, goes fourth, ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo, Perez, Stroll, Alonso and Grosjean.

"Alonso's playing games at the moment," Bottas is warned as the Finn attempts to negotiate his way past the Spaniard, who isn't making it easy.

Sticking - no pun intended - with the ultras, Raikkonen improves to 34.419. Shortly after, having gone quickest in S1, Vettel makes a mistake in S3. He is quickest again in S3 and improves to 34.551.

Ricciardo is told to think about going slower in T8 and quicker in T9.

Hamilton complains about the amount of photographers that surround his car when he stops, warning that people could get hurt.

Bottas improves to third with a 34.556 on the supers, just 0.132s off Bottas' pace and 0.005s off Vettel's.

Grosjean, also on supers, improves to fifth (36.517), only to be demoted when Sainz and Leclerc improve, both on ultras.

Hamilton switches to ultras but his out lap is compromised by traffic.

Among the first to run a qualifying simulation, Ocon gets very, very out of shape but holds it all together.

PBs in all three sectors see Hamilton go fourth, 0.788s off Raikkonen's pace. The Briton lost time at the start of the lap, losing time as he attempted to build himself a gap.

As Verstappen begins his qualifying sim, Raikkonen goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 33.843. Verstappen can 'only' manage 34.994.

Vettel stops the clock at 33.797, the German running his third set of brand new ultras after yesterday's lack of dry running. Like Williams, all Ferrari's running in this session has been on the purple-banded rubber.

PBs in all three sectors see Hamilton improve to fourth (34.560), 0.763s off Vettel's pace.

With 13:00 remaining, Bottas, Grosjean, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Alonso have yet to try the ultrasofts.

In terms of best of the rest, it's currently Force India, ahead of Renault, though we've yet to see the Haas pair on the ultras.

At which point Magnussen and Grosjean head out on brand new ultras, leaving Alonso and Bottas as the only drivers still to try the softest compound.

Grosjean posts 35.468 to go eighth just behind Leclerc who has improved to 35.365.

Magnussen posts 35.770 to go 12th, while Alonso crosses the line at 36.332 which sees him remain... last.

With under four minutes remaining, Bottas finally puts on a set of the ultras.

A spin for Hartley brings out the yellows.

Finally getting a fairly clear lap with no traffic, Hamilton improves to 33.870 but remains third behind the Ferrari pair.

The session ends.

Vettel is quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz and Grosjean.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Stroll, Sirotkin, Vandoorne, Hartley and Alonso.

Check out our Saturday gallery from COTA, here.

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