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Hamilton leads Mercedes to 1-2 in opening Brazilian GP practice

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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.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”