Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton sent out an early warning shot to Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg by finishing fastest in opening practice for the Mexican Grand Prix on Friday.
Hamilton arrives in Mexico trailing Rosberg by 26 points in the drivers’ championship with three races remaining, meaning that even a clean sweep of victories may not be enough to deny his teammate a maiden title.
Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in Mexico last November as F1 returned to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after 23 years away, and is keen to add another new trophy to his collection this time around.
Opening practice saw Hamilton set the pace on the medium compound tire, with his lap of 1:20.914 enough to give him P1 come the end of the session.
Rosberg was unable to match his teammate’s pace, finishing down in seventh in the final standings as a number of drivers opted to push on the softer tire compounds.
Sebastian Vettel was second for Ferrari on the soft tire, finishing just 0.079 seconds off Hamilton at the top, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen was third.
Force India conducted running on the super-soft tire for part of the session, allowing home favorite Sergio Perez to finish fourth ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg, both within half a second of Hamilton’s time.
Valtteri Bottas finished sixth for Williams, leaving Rosberg to settle for seventh, over three-quarters of a second off P1.
Daniel Ricciardo finished a lowly eighth as the lead Red Bull driver, as teammate Max Verstappen’s running was limited after a small fire broke out on the left-rear wheel of his car. Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10.
The session was red flagged after 30 minutes when Felipe Nasr’s front wing failed through the esses, appearing to break after he ran across the curb with force. The local marshals were quick to sweep away the debris, ensuring the session could continue not long after.
Second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET on Friday.