Alexander Albon’s crash late in FP1 led to first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix ending slightly early and ensured the Red Bull driver finished the session fastest.
Heavy rain throughout Friday morning resulted in limited early running taking place on full wet tires before conditions improved throughout the 90-minute session. With a little under 10 minutes remaining, a number of drivers went out on slicks but the track proved too tricky as a number of mistakes were followed by Albon’s off.
Albon — who was confirmed as a Red Bull driver for 2020 earlier this week — caught a snap of understeer at Juncao towards the end of his out lap and slid wide onto the grass. Once off the track he was a passenger on slick tires on wet grass and damaged the right-front corner in the tire barrier to bring the session to an end three minutes early.
The red flag meant Albon ended the session top of the standings with his best lap time on intermediate tires, finishing over half a second clear of Valtteri Bottas on a 1m16.142s. Bottas was the only other driver in the 1m16s, with Sebastian Vettel third and Charles Leclerc fourth with a 1m17.041s and 1m17.285s respectively.
Leclerc — who will take a 10-place grid penalty this weekend — was first to find the slick tires tricky as he slid wide at Turn 2 and had to carefully negotiate the wet curb on the outside of the corner before rejoining. That error was immediately followed by Max Verstappen spinning at the same corner, although unlike his Red Bull teammate he was able to use tarmac run-off to stop the car before it hit the barrier.
With the session red-flagged shortly after, Verstappen was one of four drivers — also including Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez — not to set a lap time in FP1. All except Perez had ventured out on slicks having only done a single installation lap in the wet, but saw their only timed attempts ended by the stoppage.
That meant the top 10 was largely filled with drivers who carried out significant running in the wet, with Carlos Sainz fifth after completing 16 laps, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat and Lando Norris.
George Russell was 11th for Williams after completing 18 laps — the highest number alongside Antonio Giovinazzi in 15th — with the best times all coming on the intermediate tires. Nicholas Latifi had a solid first outing in the wet in Formula 1, avoiding mistakes but ending up slowest of those to set a time, some 1.3 seconds off Russell.