Lewis Hamilton went quickest in opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, outpacing Red Bull Racing rival Max Verstappen by less than one tenth of a second. Third place went to Nico Rosberg, who could this weekend wrap up the Drivers’ Championship title if he outscores Hamilton by seven points.
All three set their fastest times on the soft compound Pirelli, with Hamilton rising to the top with a lap of 1:11.895, 0.096 ahead of Verstappen. Rosberg finished the session 0.230s adrift of title rival Hamilton, with Daniel Ricciardo a similar margin further back in fourth place in the second Red Bull.
Ferrari, meanwhile, conducted all of their running on the medium compound tyres, with the result that Sebastian Vettel finished in ninth place, two thousandths of a second ahead of 10th-placed team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
With the Ferraris having an unshowy opening session, the final top-five place went to Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, though the Finnish driver was over 1.2s off the pace set by Hamilton. Bottas headed the two Force India cars of Sergio Perez and Nico Hukenberg – sixth and seventh respectively – while Felipe Massa, in the second Williams, kicked off the final Brazilian Grand Prix of his career with a best lap of 1:13.318, which was good enough for eighth place.
Further back it was a case of two-by-two as 10th and 11th places went to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat who were followed by the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Kvyat might have risen higher but the Russian was confined to the pits with as mechanical issue for a large part of the session and completed just 15 laps. Haas’ Romain Grosjean was 15th ahead of the two Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.
Eighteenth place went to manor’s Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman taking to the track the day after it was announced that he will next year join Force India in place of Renault-bound Nico Hulkenberg.
Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc replaced Esteban Gutierrez at the wheel of the second Haas to finish in P21 and Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin replaced Kevin Magnussen in the second Renault, with the Danish driver set to join Haas next year in place of Gutierrez.
Brazilian Grand Prix 2016 – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.895
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.991
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:12.125
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:12.371
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:13.129
6 Sergio Perez Force India 1:13.289
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:13.293
8 Felipe Massa Williams 1:13.318
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.567
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:13.569
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.711
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:14.090
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:14.252
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:14.296
15 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:14.507
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:14.631
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:14.654
18 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:14.827
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.908
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:14.948
21 Charles Leclerc Haas F1 1:15.391
22 Sergey Sirotkin Renault 1:15.800