Lewis Hamilton claimed the P1 that he will need come Sunday to hold off Nico Rosberg in the championship race as he beat Max Verstappen in Friday’s first practice in Brazil.
On a make or break weekend in the championship, Hamilton got off to a flying start. Despite running an aero sensor on the rear of his W07 as he evaluated a new rear wing he went quickest with a 1:13.182. Rosberg, running a new front wing, was second.
Both running the mediums, the middle compound on offer this weekend, Hamilton shaved hundredths off his time while Rosberg closed the gap to 0.030s.
Valtteri Bottas on the soft tyres was third in the early running ahead of Daniel Ricciardo on the mediums, Felipe Massa – who is competing in his final Brazilian GP – on the softs and Max Verstappen on the mediums.
Heading out for a second run, Verstappen went quickest on a new set of soft tyres. A 1:11.991 for the Dutchman.
Hamilton went out a bit later and crossed the line with a 1:11.895, 0.096s up on Verstappen. Rosberg was third, 0.230s down.
Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull Racing ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa.
Williams and Force India are locked in a battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and the four drivers were separated by two-tenths. All set their best times on the soft tyres.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen completed the top ten as Ferrari stuck with the medium tyres throughout the 90-minute session. They were 1.67s off the pace with Vettel 0.002s up on his team-mate.
There were problems for Sergey Sirotkin. Replacing Kevin Magnussen for FP1, the development driver went from third to neutral and was unable to get the car going.
He limped back to the pits and pulled over as soon as he entered, allowing the Renault mechanics to swarm the car and push him back to the garage. His practice ended with just 10 laps on the board.
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.895s 32 laps
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.991s 29 laps
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes-Mercedes 1:12.125s 26 laps
4. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:12.371s 27 laps
5. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:13.129s 36 laps
6. Sergio Perez Force India 1:13.289s 31 laps
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:13.293s 33 laps
8. Felipe Massa Williams 1:13.318s 33 laps
9. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.567s 24 laps
10. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:13.569s 26 laps
11. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso 1:13.711s 22 laps
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:14.090s 15 laps
13. Jenson Button McLaren 1:14.252s 27 laps
14. Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:14.296s 26 laps
15. Romain Grosjean Haas 1:14.507s 25 laps
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:14.631s 21 laps
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:14.654s 23 laps
18. Esteban Ocon Manor 1:14.827s 30 laps
19. Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.908s 32 laps
20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:14.948s 32 laps
21. Charles Leclerc Haas 1:15.391s 27 laps
22. Sergey Sirotki Renault 1:15.800s 10 laps