Newly-crowned four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the opening practice session of the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The Englishman led a Mercedes 1-2 on the timesheets at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, narrowly edging teammate Valtteri Bottas by just over one-tenth of a second. The pair was almost half a second quicker than the chasing Ferrari and Red Bull Racing drivers, a considerable margin given the 4.3-kilometre circuit takes a little over a minute to lap.

Hamilton’s fastest time of the session, a 1:09.202 posted on Pirelli’s Super Soft tyres, was over 1.5 seconds faster than the time he posted to claim pole position at last year’s event. The time shattered the circuit’s lap record, a 1:09.822 posted by local Rubens Barrichello thirteen years previously in Ferrari’s all-conquering F2004.

With rain showers predicted for Friday afternoon’s second practice session, it was a busy session out on track as everyone sought to take advantage of the dry track conditions to fine-tune set-ups.

Those ambitions were true for every team except Scuderia Toro Rosso, who saw both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly’s running curtailed with separate power unit failures. Hartley ground to a halt after just two laps with a halfshaft failure, while Gasly’s MGU-H failed after only five laps. After the Italian team suffered a spate of Renault power unit issues at the preceding Mexican Grand Prix, it is expected that both drivers will again take grid penalties into Sunday’s race.

Up at the sharp end of the timesheets, Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen was the nearest challenger to the Mercedes’, lapping fractionally quicker than the Red Bull Racing pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

The Finn’s teammate Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest in a session that proved rather more incident-filled than the German would have wanted. At one stage the German found himself blocked by a slow-moving Carlos Sainz Jr. at the Senna ‘S’; he also had a half-spin at Pinheirinho just before the half-hour mark in the session.

Felipe Massa, contesting the penultimate Grand Prix of his Formula 1 career, put his Williams seventh-fastest. The Brazilian veteran finished four places and half a second quicker than teammate Lance Stroll.

McLaren had a productive first session, with Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso both managing to get their Honda-powered MCL32s into the top ten. The pair sandwiched Esteban Ocon’s Force India on the timesheets.

Occupying the other Force India in this session was Mercedes-backed GP3 Series champion George Russell, making his Formula 1 practice debut in place of Sergio Pérez. The young Briton had an impressive hit-out over 29 laps, with his fastest lap time six-tenths slower than Ocon’s en route to twelfth overall.

Russell was followed by the Haas F1 Team duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who placed 13th and 14th respectively. Magnussen was scheduled to sit out the session in place of Ferrari junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi, but was given priority to run due to the threat of wet weather expected in the afternoon.

They finished ahead of the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hülkenberg. Both earned the ire of other drivers, with Sainz Jr. getting in Vettel’s way and Hülkenberg clumsily forcing Hamilton off track at Junção while the Englishman was on a flying lap.

With the two Toro Rossos out of action, that promoted Sauber off the bottom of the timesheets. Ferrari protégé and Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc had another FP1 outing for the Swiss squad, narrowly edging Marcus Ericsson.

Friday’s second practice session at Interlagos will begin at 14:00 local time (GMT -2).

Driver Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:09.202 Pirelli Super Soft 36
2. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:09.329 Pirelli Super Soft 43
3. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:09.744 Pirelli Super Soft 32
4. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:09.750 Pirelli Super Soft 31
5. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:09.828 Pirelli Super Soft 38
6. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:09.984 Pirelli Super Soft 32
7. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:10.102 Pirelli Super Soft 28
8. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:10.402 Pirelli Super Soft 26
9. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:10.454 Pirelli Super Soft 36
10. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:10.476 Pirelli Super Soft 24
11. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:10.632 Pirelli Super Soft 42
12. George Russell uk Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:11.047 Pirelli Super Soft 29
13. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:11.188 Pirelli Super Soft 29
14. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:11.463 Pirelli Super Soft 30
15. Carlos Sainz Jr es Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:11.467 Pirelli Super Soft 32
16. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:11.608 Pirelli Super Soft 35
17. Charles Leclerc mc Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:11.802 Pirelli Super Soft 32
18. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:11.898 Pirelli Super Soft 28
19. Pierre Gasly fr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:14.034 Pirelli Soft 5
20. Brendon Hartley nz Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 no time 2

Image via LAT Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.