Newly re-signed Red Bull Racing driver Alex Albon set the fastest time of the opening practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix before crashing out late in the rain-hit session at Interlagos.
In his first outing since Red Bull this announced that the Thai driver will be staying with the team for 2020, Albon hit the top of the timesheet late in the session with a run intermediate tyres that left him half a second ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
However, after moving to slicks on an improving track Albon lost control in the penultimate corner. He hits the barriers hard, causing substantial damage to the front right corner of his car and the red flags were show. With just two minutes remaining, the session was not restarted.
With torrential rain falling overnight and in the hours before the start of the session, there was a slow start to running on an extremely wet track at Interlagos.
Sebastian Vettel was the first to sample the conditions, with the Ferrari driver using full wet, blue-banded Pirelli tyres.
It would be a further 20 minutes before the first times appeared on the board, however, with Carlos Sainz topping the timesheet briefly before Charles Leclerc ousted the Spaniard by a second and then, on an improving track, by a further four seconds.
The Monegasque driver remained at the top of the order until the track had improved to the degree that intermediate tyres became the order of the day.
Vettel then jumped to the order with a time of 1:17.041 before Bottas eclipsed that lap of 1:16.693s. Albon then took the track on intermediates and posted a time of 1m16.399s to top.
The Red Bull driver’s team-mate Max Verstappen then went out on track but the borderline nature of the circuit was demonstrated when the Dutchman lost control in Turn 2. He managed to avoid any calamities but when Albon came out on track on the same compound he pushed past the level of adhesion and crashed out, ending the session.
His crash meant that even though the bulk of drivers had taken to the track on slick tyres, there were no improvements elsewhere. Albon thus headed the timesheet ahead of Bottas, Vettel and Leclerc. Sainz finished fifth for McLaren with the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo. Pierre Gasly was eighth for Toro Rosso ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat, while Lando Norris was tenth in the second McLaren.
Albon’s crash also meant Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Verstappen and Hamilton all failed to set a time.
2019 FIA Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 9 1:16.142
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 10 1:16.693 0.551
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 13 1:17.041 0.899
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 13 1:17.285 1.143
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren 16 1:17.786 1.644
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 8 1:17.899 1.757
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 9 1:17.985 1.843
8 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 17 1:18.100 1.958
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 16 1:18.274 2.132
10 Lando Norris McLaren 15 1:18.559 2.417
11 George Russell Williams 18 1:18.779 2.637
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas 10 1:19.247 3.105
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 6 1:19.414 3.272
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 12 1:19.532 3.390
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 18 1:19.600 3.458
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 16 1:20.010 3.868
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 3
18 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1
19 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 3
20 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3