Lewis Hamilton topped title leader Max Verstappen by 0.367s in the crucial first practice session at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of Friday qualifying.
The Briton, who is running a new internal combustion engine that will cost him five places on Sunday’s grid, was unhappy with his car’s performance for most of the session, particularly on the medium tire, and his team had to make front suspension adjustments to address what he described as a bouncing front end before sending him out on softs.
His first flying lap on soft tires wasn’t enough to get near Verstappen’s one hot lap on the same compound. A second attempt got him 0.069s ahead, and his third run on softs stretched the margin to 0.367s.
The final classification is unlikely to have fazed Verstappen, who had a clear grasp on the RB16B around this circuit from the off. The Dutchman set the fewest laps of any driver, having spent much of the session in control of the order, and spent most of the hour focusing on race pace on what are softer tires than those brought to this track in 2019. His teammate, Sergio Perez, was 0.075s further back in third place, while Valtteri Bottas was more than half a second slower than his session-topping teammate.
Pierre Gasly again headed the midfield in fifth, the AlphaTauri driver 0.830s off the pace and more than 0.2s ahead of the rest of the midfield.
Ferrari followed in a tight fight with Alpine, the two teams split by less than a tenth of a second. Carlos Sainz led the way in sixth and 0.018s ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc, who was worried he picked up floor damage running over some curbs late in the session, and Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were just 0.003s and 0.059s adrift in eighth and ninth respectively.
Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were 10th and 12th, sandwiching AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in 11th.
Alfa Romeo teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were 13th and 14th ahead of Lando Norris, who was 1.5s off the pace but didn’t run the soft tire, leaving him lower down the order than should be expected in qualifying.
Haas driver Mick Schumacher edged ahead of Williams teammates Nicholas Latifi and George Russell, the trio separated by just 0.053s. Daniel Ricciardo was 19th after completing the session without trailing the softs, while Nikita Mazepin completed the order more than 2.2s off the pace in 20th.