Brazilian GP: First blood to Hamilton as Verstappen splits the Mercs in FP1

Lewis Hamilton topped FP1 from Interlagos, with Max Verstappen splitting the him and title rival Nico Rosberg. Williams and Force India closely matched, as Ferrari focus fully on race-pace simulations.

Brazilian GP: First blood to Hamilton as Verstappen splits the Mercs in FP1
Sporting the familiar Yello helmet, in trbiute to Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton looked in good form in FP1. (Image Credit: Formula One)

Lewis Hamilton‚Äč kicked off the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend by setting the fastest time in the opening 90 minutes of practice from Interlagos, just edging out Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who seem to be very close to the Mercedes' in terms of race-pace.

Hamilton was 0.230 quicker than title rival Nico Rosberg who was third, as Daniel Ricciardo took a comfortable fourth from Valtteri Bottas's Williams.

Sergio Perez was just a tenth behind the Williams in seventh, and 0.004 up on his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. Home favourite Felipe Massa was eighth quickest.

Then came the two Ferrari's in ninth and 10th, Sebastian Vettel and then Kimi Raikkonen. The Scuderia opted to run exclusively on the Medium compound, focusing on race-pace simulations, and did not try a qualifying style simulations, which accounts for their lowly positions.

Halo's and a slow start

The session got off to a very slow start, as over the first 10 minutes, cars trickled out to complete a install lap. Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer of Sauber, Haas and Renault respectivly were those testing the Halo device this time around, with the single install lap the only lap done with it attached.

As the session began to wake up, Bottas was sitting in P1, until the Mercedes duo decided to go for a quickish lap. Hamilton improved his effort to a 1:13.182 from a 1:13.447 whilst Rosberg's best effort fell 0.030 short of the new benchmark.

The only dramatic moment of the opening stages was when Renault Friday driver Sergey Sirotkin limped back into the pits, with a fuel pressure problem that limited him to just 10 laps.

That was about that for the first half of FP1, as Fernando Alonso was out early in his McLaren to get some clear track and see what times he could pump in.

Bottas once again went quickest, and once again he was quickly knocked off top spot by a stunning lap by  Verstappen, which included a major tow up the hill from Juncao, the final corner by Alonso, a 1:11.991 put him 1s up on the pack.

Hamilton just pips Verstappen

Rosberg and Ricciardo both couldn't beat Verstappen's time, falling short by 0.1/0.2, which left it up to Hamilton to try.

On his first flyer on the Softs, a 1:11.895 was the time, good enough for P1 by 0.096 which was how things stayed for the rest of the session.

It was a typical FP1 for the rest of the field, with Charles LeClerc filling in for Esteban Gutierrez at Haas, as well as Sirotkin deputising for Magnussen.

Danill Kvyat had a right-rear puncture late on, and Vettel had a breif spin in the closing moments, although both drivers survived these encounters.

Sebastian Vettel's late spin was as dramatic as FP1 got. (Image Credit: Formula One)
Sebastian Vettel's late spin was as dramatic as FP1 got. (Image Credit: Formula One)
2016 Brazilian Grand Prix - First Practice classification
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.895
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.096
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.230
4. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.476
5. Valterri Bottas Williams +1.234
6. Sergio Perez Force India +1.394
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.398
8. Felipe Massa Williams +1.423
9. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +1.672
10. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.674
11. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1.816
12. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.195
13. Jenson Button McLaren +2.357
14. Fernando Alonso McLaren +2.401
15. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.612
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.736
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2.759
18. Esteban Ocon Manor +2.932
19. Jolyon Palmer Renault +3.013
20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +3.053
21. Charles LeClerc Haas +3.496
22. Sergey Sirotkin Renault +3.905