Lewis Hamilton headed a dominant Mercedes 1-2 in the opening free practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Briton finishing a tenth of a second ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and half a second clear of Ferrari’s third-placed Kimi Räikkönen.
After spending the first half of the session controlling matters on Pirelli’s soft compound tyre, Hamilton switched to supersofts and after Bottas had taken top on the same compound with a time of 1:09.329, Hamilton responded by lowering the benchmark to 1:09.202.
The lap was good enough to keep Hamilton at the top of the timesheet until the end of the session and also to establish a new record, as the fastest ever lap of Interlagos, beating the time of 1m09.822s set by Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello in qualifying in 2004.
Räikkönen’s third place was sealed with a time of 1:09.744, 0.542 behind Hamilton’s. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished in sixth place with a time of 1:09.984 at the end of a session that saw him have an early off in Turn 9.
The Ferrari drivers were split but the Red Bull Racing pairing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Mexican Grand Prix winner Verstappen took fourth place with a lap of 1:09.548, just six thousandths of a second behind Räikkönen. Ricciardo was a further seven hundredths of a second back. The Australian though is set for a grid penalty on Sunday having been forced to take a new MGU-H ahead of the weekend.
Seventh place in the session went to local hero Felipe Massa. The Williams driver, who is making his final home grand prix appearance this weekend following the announcement that he will retire at the end of the season, was the last man within a second of Hamilton.
Stoffel Vandoorne finished eighth for McLaren ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and the second McLaren of Fernando Alonso.
It was a difficult morning for Toro Rosso, with both the team’s drivers exiting the session early. Pierre Gasly completed just five laps for a best time of 1:14.034, some 4.8s off the pace. Team-mate Brendon Hartley was forced out by an apparent power unit and had to pull over the side of the circuit with smoke pouring from the back of his car. He failed to set a time. Like fellow-Renault powered runner Ricciardo both drivers are now likely to take engine-related grid penalties on Sunday.
2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 36 1:09.202
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 43 1:09.329 0.127
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 32 1:09.744 0.542
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 31 1:09.750 0.548
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 38 1:09.828 0.626
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 32 1:09.984 0.782
7 Felipe Massa Williams 28 1:10.102 0.900
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 26 1:10.402 1.200
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 36 1:10.454 1.252
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 24 1:10.476 1.274
11 Lance Stroll Williams 42 1:10.632 1.430
12 George Russell Force India 29 1:11.047 1.845
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 29 1:11.188 1.986
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 30 1:11.463 2.261
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 32 1:11.467 2.265
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 35 1:11.608 2.406
17 Charles Leclerc Sauber 32 1:11.802 2.600
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 28 1:11.898 2.696
19 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 5 1:14.034 4.832
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 2