“Front end is really poor, bouncing,” reported Hamilton, who left the the pits on a new set of mediums, 10min in to the session, as Verstappen continued to set purple sectors, going fastest of all again.
He continued raising the bar, setting a 1min 10.189sec lap before heading back to the pits, while Hamilton was still complaining of front suspension problems after another visit to his garage, asking the team to come back with another solution to fix the issue.
He was now 0.849sec behind his title rival on the timing screen and continuing on track, completing his 16th lap after 25 minutes, with Verstappen having covered just half the distance.
“The front’s bouncing across the track man,” Hamilton complained as he returned to the pits again and was pulled into the garage.
A few spots of rain appeared approaching the halfway mark. Just three cars were out on track as Verstappen remained at the top of the timing chart, 0.02sec ahead of Perez and almost 0.8 faster than third-place Hamilton.
The Alpine drivers began on hard tyres and Ocon was fourth, another 0.3sec down and 0.2sec ahead of Bottas.
As the rain held off, Mercedes continued to rack up the laps at quick succession — almost too quick, as Valtteri Bottas nearly speared into the side of Hamilton, who was leaving his garage — the Finn fast on the brakes as he returned to the pits.
As the track evolved, both Ferraris showed promising pace on medium tyres; Charles Leclerc splitting the Red Bulls with a lap time 0.005sec slower than Verstappen’s, and Sainz 0.4sec behind.
Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso on medium tyres were with a second of the lead time.
That didn’t last long, with Verstappen already warming up a set of soft tyres for a fast lap that stopped the clock at 1min 9.417sec; Perez slower by just over 0.07sec.
McLaren joined Haas and Williams at the bottom of the timesheets; Lando Norris slowest in the session at 20 minutes to go, with a 1min 13.759sec lap, before turning up the pace and dropping into the 1min 10secs, with his team-mate.
Hamilton was still having problems with the front of the car, asking if the tyre pressures were low, as he strapped on soft tyres. It didn’t appear to slow him down too much, at the Mercedes driver topped the table with a 1min 09.348sec lap, helped by picking up a tow on the main straight from Nikita Mazepin.
Red Bull looked unconcerned with their single-lap pace, as Perez and Verstappen circulated several seconds off the pace in the 1min 14secs, appearing to assess the long-run performance of the soft tyres.
The slo-mo camera was busy at Turn 4, capturing the cars bouncing over the kerbs, but few took it as far as Leclerc who reported a “heavy hit” as he careered off the track and over the ridges.
As Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly tried out their wheel to wheel moves into Turn 1, Hamilton continued to benefit from the improving track to go faster. His 1min 09.050sec lap would be the quickest of the session
He finished just over 0.3sec ahead of Verstappen. Perez and Bottas followed closely behind, ahead of Pierre Gasly, 0.8sec behind Hamilton and then both Ferraris a second down.
The two Alpines and Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten, which was missing both McLarens; neither of the orange cars ran soft tyres.
Hamilton underlined the intense schedule of a sprint race weekend, heading out of his garage with less than a minute to go of the session, cramming in one last practice start ahead of qualifying.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 12, 2021
The cameras were firmly focused on Hamilton’s garage and the rear wing on the Mercedes. With the stewards impounding the wing in question from Friday, he was given permission to use a different wing without taking another penalty as everyone awaited the official decision.
Lance Stroll exited the pit lane first as the session went green for the final practice of the weekend. Haas and Alfa Romeo drivers began their long runs with temperatures higher than on Friday.
Another third of the field filtered onto track with 10 minutes gone including the Ferraris, McLarens and Max Verstappen.
Team-mate Perez set the time to beat twice over, improving his first time to a 1min 13.219sec on soft tyres.
It didn’t last long as the Dutch driver went comfortably fasetst by over a second and into the 1min 12s.
A good lap by Esteban Ocon on medium tyres slotted him into second, ahead of both AlphaTauri’s including Gasly on soft tyres.
There were huge cheers in the crowds as Hamilton exited the garage with 20 minutes gone in FP2.
His first time was several seconds off the top spot and he wasn’t deploying DRS either of the zones around the Interlagos track.
Carlos Sainz was reporting an aero balance shift to the front while Bottas was informed drivers were struggling with rear tyres overheating with the increased temperatures over Friday.
The Mercedes driver was also focusing in on race runs and slotted into eighth with half an hour of running gone.
McLaren were 17th and 19th with birthday boy Norris ahead of team-mate Ricciardo, split only by the Haas of Schumacher.
A quick lap from Alonso on softs dethroned Verstappen at the top of the pile. The Alpine driver moved 0.8sec clear on a 1min 11.238sec.
Gasly and Leclerc were two drivers to struggle with the track limits enforcement at Turn 4. The Ferrari driver lost several laps for exceeding the limits on corner exit but was slotted in just 0.021sec behind team-mate Sainz in P7.
The AlphaTauri driver had a worry with less than 8mins remaining. He reported that his car was ‘undriveable’ and questioned whether he had an issue.
Mercedes were 18th and 19th heading into the final stages of the session. Hamilton lifted himself to 8th with 6mins remaining on softs. He went quicker still on a subsequent lap while Bottas was able to move up to fourth on his effort.
Perez’s focus was solely on the race in the final moments. He was told to try the inside line at Turn 1 with a mind on the start and launch into the first corner.