Lewis Hamilton fifth in final practice ahead of bid to stave off winless season

Sergio Perez was fastest on a tightly-packed leaderboard.
Lewis Hamilton fifth in final practice ahead of bid to stave off winless season

By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Interlagos

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix as the Mercedes driver bids to keep his unique winning record alive.

Heading into the penultimate round of the 22-race campaign here in Interlagos, seven-time world champion Hamilton is facing up to the prospect that he will end the season without a single victory for the first time in his career.

The 37-year-old, who won so brilliantly in Brazil last year, believes the short venue in Sao Paulo will offer him a greater chance of winning than at next weekend’s final race in Abu Dhabi.

But the British driver ended the final action before qualifying later on Friday trailing both Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.

Sergio Perez finished fastest for Red Bull, just four thousandths of a second faster than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Double world champion Max Verstappen was third, only 0.008sec back, with Carlos Sainz, who is facing a five-place grid penalty for an engine change, fourth.

Hamilton finished 0.186sec adrift of Perez. His Mercedes team-mate George Russell took sixth, two tenths off the pace.

British driver Lando Norris was forced to abandon his media duties on Thursday after suffering with suspected food poisoning.

But the 22-year-old returned to his McLaren for opening practice and finished 15th.

Interlagos is playing host to Formula One’s third and final sprint round of the campaign.

Qualifying, which determines the grid for Saturday’s shortened race, takes place at 4pm local time (7pm UK). The finishing positions of Saturday’s 24-lap dash sets the starting places for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

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