Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two and set a new lap record in the opening practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The newly-crowned four time world champion posted a 1m09.202s to lead teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.127s on a hot morning at Interlagos, with Hamilton over half a second clear of any other driver. Hamilton’s time smashed the previous record set by Rubens Barrichello for Ferrari back in 2004 by 0.620s.
In a busy session where most opted for the supersofts, Kimi Raikkonen was third-fastest for Ferrari on a 1m09.744s, edging out Mexican Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen by just 0.006s. The Red Bull looked strong over the curbs at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace but was lacking the outright pace to challenge Mercedes in the opening session, with teams trying to fit in as much running as possible due to a forecast of rain on Friday afternoon.
Daniel Ricciardo was less than 0.1s adrift of his teammate in fifth place, with Sebastian Vettel sixth – over three quarters of a second off Hamilton – after a spin at Turn 8 early in the session that saw the Ferrari rolling backward over the grass before rejoining.
Felipe Massa was best of the rest at the start of his final home grand prix, with the Williams driver the last man within a second of Hamilton’s time. Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten as McLaren started the race weekend strongly in the knowledge it currently does not have any power unit penalties to deal with.
The same can’t be said for Red Bull and Toro Rosso, with Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley all set to take a 10-place grid penalty for using an eighth MGU-H. As if the penalties weren’t enough in isolation, both Toro Rosso drivers then hit trouble during the opening session, with Hartley stopping on the run to the finish line on only his third lap with a power unit issue.
The New Zealander’s session was over immediately, and Gasly then completed just three more laps before he too had to return to the pits and didn’t return as Toro Rosso worked on the car, leaving the team with a total of seven complete laps.
While the two Toro Rosso drivers lacked mileage, FP1 replacements George Russell and Charles Leclerc both had impressive outings for Force India and Sauber respectively. GP3 champion Russell was taking part in his first F1 race weekend session and ended up 0.6s and three positions adrift of fellow Mercedes youngster Esteban Ocon, while F2 champion Leclerc edged out teammate Marcus Ericsson.
Haas had also been set to run Antonio Giovinazzi in FP1 but opted to change its schedule, with the Italian now replacing Kevin Magnussen in FP2 due to the unsettled weather forecast.