Lewis Hamilton was fastest in first practice for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix going three tenths faster than his championship rival Max Verstappen. The seven-times champion goes into this weekend having to limit the damage to his Red Bull rival having taken a new ICE and incurring a penalty.
Hamilton set his best time on the soft tyre during his three stints during the session but will have a lot of work to do on Sunday because of the grid penalty. The team believe this is the best opportunity to make up ground in the race given the uncertainties in Doha and Jeddah.
Red Bull however still look quite strong early on, with Hamilton’s time coming at the end of the session. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was third after going seven hundredths faster than Valtteri Bottas, who was over half a second off his teammates’ session topping time.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by nineteen points before this weekend’s Brazilian race, with a maximum of 107 available over the remaining four races. He however complained through out the session about the set-up of his Mercedes.
But the feeling is there could be very little between Mercedes and Red Bull. Verstappen led the early part of the session, but Hamilton hit back on the soft tyres and finished three tenths ahead.
The session was the only real chance for the teams to make car set-up decisions before they are locked in from the start of Friday qualifying, there was plenty of action at the start of the one-hour session. Pierre Gasly put his Alpha Tauri fifth going two tenths faster than the two Ferrari’s.
There was no major drama with a few drivers making mistakes, Leclerc being one driver to lock up and go wide at Descida do Lago. But no damage was done to the Ferrari, Verstappen also hitting the kerbs.
Carlos Sainz was the faster of the two going just under two-hundredths faster than his teammate Charles Leclerc. The Italian manufacturer going three-hundredths ahead of the two Alpine’s of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.
However, they did not use the soft tyre meaning there could be more to find in qualifying. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.
Stroll was two-hundredths faster than Yuki Tsunoda, who spilt the Aston Martin’s after going three hundredths ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Kimi Raikkonen was thirteenth going a tenth and a half ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
McLaren’s focus appeared to be different to other teams, maybe their focus was on long high fuel running. Lando Norris fifteenth and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo nineteenth, but you need to believe they will be up there in qualifying later on this afternoon on the soft tyre.
Mick Schumacher was sixteenth going a hundredth faster than the two Williams, Nicolas Latifi going ahead of George Russell. Nikita Mazepin rounded out the field three tenths behind Ricciardo.