FP1: Verstappen narrowly faster than Vettel and Hamilton

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14.
© XPB 

Red Bull's Max Verstappen picked up where he left off in Mexico by topping the timesheets in first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Verstappen's time of 1:09.011s was just under half a tenth faster than Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton further back in third by almost exactly the same margin.

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 times

1Max VerstappenRed Bull1:09.011s16
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1:09.060s+ 0.049s20
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:09.107s+ 0.096s28
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:09.395s+ 0.384s23
5Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:09.573s+ 0.562s28
6Valtteri BottasMercedes1:09.679s+ 0.668s23
7Romain GrosjeanHaas1:09.922s+ 0.911s28
8Kevin MagnussenHaas1:10.236s+ 1.225s15
9Charles LeclercSauber1:10.346s+ 1.335s28
10Esteban OconForce India1:10.361s+ 1.350s34
11Carlos SainzRenault1:10.662s+ 1.651s34
12Nico HülkenbergRenault1:10.679s+ 1.668s34
13Antonio GiovinazziSauber1:10.685s+ 1.674s29
14Lance StrollWilliams1:10.799s+ 1.788s30
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:10.934s+ 1.923s30
16Lando NorrisMcLaren1:11.013s+ 2.002s28
17Sergey SirotkinWilliams1:11.037s+ 2.026s30
18Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1:11.176s+ 2.165s32
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1:11.452s+ 2.441s23
20Nicholas LatifiForce India1:11.493s+ 2.482s34

First out on track at the Autodromo José Carlos Pace under Friday morning's cloudy skies was Daniel Ricciardo, his RB14 in need of an early shakedown. Red Bull had been forced to change the turbocharger on his car following his retirement in Mexico, and thereby incur a grid penalty for this weekend's race.

Following him out were the two McLarens, with Stoffel Vandoorne joined for the session by his 2019 successor Lando Norris subbing for Fernando Alonso. The Saubers were also quick to get going, with Charles Leclerc similarly partnered by the team's incoming driver Antonio Giovinazzi. Elsewhere, Force India had handed over the keys of Sergio Perez' car to their test and development driver Nicholas Latifi.

Ricciardo's team mate Max Verstappen and the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were the only ones not to come out in the first five minutes, but no one completed a flying lap until Kimi Raikkonen posted a rather leisurely 1:20.666s to open the Ferrari account for the weekend.

By contrast, Norris' first run on the soft compound tyres was significantly quicker at 1:13.312s and his next was a full second faster still and warmly received by the McLaren pit wall, which told him "that was a nice lap with a good improvement" over the team radio.

Having bedded in his new turbocharger, Ricciardo got serious and went to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1:10.139s on his first set of supersofts, with Raikkonen falling 0.084s short of besting him with his own flying lap. The Finn did go fastest next time by but was then knocked off the top by his compatriot Bottas and then by Verstappen.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB14.

Newly-crowned five-time champion Lewis Hamilton then made his mark by putting in a lap of 1:09.423s to take him a tenth clear of the Dutchman. Bottas' own riposte to his team mate's effort was thwarted by a lock-up in the middle sector which forced him to back off, and he subsequently lost some session time while the team investigated a suspected oil leak on the W09.

After the trading in of their initial sets of tyres after the 40 minute mark, a brief lull allowed Norris to put in some laps in splendid isolation pushing him up to 12th place on supersofts while Vandoorne languished at the bottom of the timings while running the slower medium compound.

The session soon got its second wind, with Romain Grosjean switching to supersofts and going fifth fastest ahead of the Ferraris, half a second off Hamilton's benchmark, after his earlier runs had been frustrated by what he said was two instances of 'blocking' from Latifi.

By the time his Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen recovered from going off-track at turn 8 to successfully join Grosjean in the top ten, Vettel had managed to go ahead of Hamilton by half a tenth with Verstappen claiming the overall top spot by a similar margin from the Ferrari.

Ricciardo was fourth fastest behind Hamilton, with Raikkonen and Bottas next up. The top ten for FP1 was rounded out by Grosjean, Magnussen, Leclerc and Force India's Esteban Ocon, with Renault's Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg bets of the rest after that.

The final quarter hour saw most drivers running on used tyres analysing tyre degradation and high fuel loads. However Norris was among those continuing to push, tangling with Williams Lance Stroll in a drag race down the main straight and having the liveliest moment of anyone in the session when he ran super-wide across the run-off at turn 1 - fortunately without inflicting any lasting harm to the MCL33 before handing it back to Alonso for the afternoon session.

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