Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off his Brazilian Grand Prix weekend in fashion by leading first practice at Interlagos on Friday morning.
Hamilton arrived in Sao Paulo trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 19 points in the drivers’ championship, knowing that a loss to the German could end his bid for a fourth world title in 2016.
Hamilton sent out an early warning shot to Rosberg, a two-time winner at Interlagos, by leading first practice with a fastest lap of 1:11.895 completed on the soft tire.
Rosberg could not run his teammate closest, with that honor instead falling to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after an impressive lap that saw him go jut 0.096 seconds slower than Hamilton. Rosberg was left to settle for third, two-tenths off his teammate.
Daniel Ricciardo followed in fourth in the second Red Bull, hinting that Red Bull may once again be clear of Ferrari at Interlagos, as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished way down in P9 and P10 respectively.
Valtteri Bottas led Williams’ charge in FP1, finishing fifth ahead of the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Local favorite Felipe Massa was eighth as he enters his final Brazilian Grand Prix weekend in F1.
The session was largely without incident, ensuring green flag running throughout. Daniil Kvyat was forced to pit with a tire issue at one point in the session, while Sergey Sirotkin – stepping in for Kevin Magnussen at Renault for FP1 only – had a fuel problem that limited his running.
Second practice in Brazil is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 11am ET on Friday.