The first practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton covered by less than 0.1s at Interlagos.
Despite ruling out Red Bull’s chances of victory on Thursday, Mexican Grand Prix winner Verstappen led the way on a 1m09.011s as he continued his run of impressive form having topped all three practice sessions at the last race. It was an extremely tight affair between the top three teams, however, with Sebastian Vettel just 0.049s adrift and world champion Lewis Hamilton 0.096s away from Verstappen’s time.
The top three all used supersoft tires to set their best laps during the opening practice session, as did Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas in fourth and sixth respectively. Ricciardo’s day started earlier than most as Red Bull sent him to the end of the pit lane 10 minutes before the track opened due to a five-place grid penalty for taking a new turbocharger, ensuring his grid drop will be applied before any other driver who may receive a penalty.
Bottas posted a 1m09.679s before he missed out on a little bit of running as Mercedes investigated a suspected oil leak halfway through the session, but the team found there to be no problem and the Finn was back on track after a 20-minute delay.
Sandwiched between Ricciardo and Bottas was Kimi Raikkonen who used the softs to post his fastest time, ending up half a second off the pace on the slower tire.
After a poor performance in Mexico, Haas started the Interlagos weekend strongly with seventh and eighth for Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen respectively, with Grosjean setting a time within a second of the outright pace on what is one of the shortest laps of the season.
Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 and were 0.1s off Magnussen while enjoying an advantage of 0.3s over the two Renaults.
Antonio Giovinazzi was fastest of the FP1 replacement drivers — 0.3s off teammate Leclerc in 13th place — while Landon Norris was 16th and 0.4s quicker than Stoffel Vandoorne during his latest McLaren appearance, although Vandoorne was the only driver to set his best time on medium tires compared to softs for Norris.
It was a largely incident-free session, with Norris — who at one stage failed to leave the garage when McLaren tried to send him out — running wide at Turn 4 as the one real error of note, while a few drivers dipped an outside wheel on the grass exiting Juncao corner — the last final turn on the circuit.