Lewis Hamilton made a rapid start to life as a four-time Formula 1 world champion by setting the pace for Mercedes through opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Friday morning.
Two weeks after clinching his fourth F1 drivers’ crown in Mexico, Hamilton returned to his Mercedes W08 car for FP1 at Interlagos and showed few signs of slowing down despite already having the championship sewn up.
Hamilton turned in a fastest lap time of 1:09.202 – a new track record at Interlagos – to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas as the Silver Arrows streaked clear at the front of the pack.
Ferrari and Red Bull failed to put up any kind of fight to Mercedes in FP1 as both teams finished over half a second off the pace, headed up by Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari SF70H.
Red Bull followed in P4 and P5 with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo respectively, while Sebastian Vettel was over seven-tenths of a second back from Hamilton in sixth place.
Felipe Massa led the midfield runners for Williams in P7, making a strong start to his final home grand prix weekend, while Stoffel Vandoorne headed up McLaren’s charge in eighth. Teammate Fernando Alonso finished two places back in P10 as Esteban Ocon managed to split the McLarens in ninth for Force India.
Mercedes youngster and GP3 champion George Russell made a strong impression on his first F1 weekend run-out, taking P12 in the second Force India. Charles Leclerc also enjoyed some running for Sauber in FP1, taking P17.
Toro Rosso had a less fruitful session as both its drivers were sidelined by engine issues. Pierre Gasly’s car was hit with an MGU-H failure, while teammate Brendon Hartley failed to post a lap time after also suffering a problem early on.