In a race where the winner could determine the Driver’s World Champion for this season, Lewis Hamilton drew first blood going fastest in the first practice session.
Hamilton has yet to win around Interlagos, but will need to do so this weekend to guarentee that the Championship battle goes down to the wire in the final race meet of the season at Abu Dhabi. After having help the pace for most of the session, Hamilton only had a 0.096 second advantage on second-placed Max Verstappen who both set their final fastest times on the soft compound of tyre, with a 1:11.895.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg was 0.230 seconds off the pace of his teammate on the same tyre. The soft tyre is the fastest tyre Pirelli have made available for the Brazilian Grand prix and is predicted to be the qualifying tyre tomorrow.
A third successive Brazilian win for Rosberg would secure him the 2016 World Title, no matter where Hamilton finishes the race. However, Hamilton’s performance in the last two races have been had to beat, and it looks like he has brought this speed into the penultimate round of the season.
Daniel Ricciardo put Red Bull as the best of the rest finishing fourth fastest. He was almost half a second off of Hamilton’s pace but had a comfortable buffer between himself and fifth place. The top four seemed to be in a class of their own (covered by 0.476 seconds), with fifth-placed Valtteri Bottas eight tenths off of Ricciardo’s time and 1.2 seconds off the overall pace.
Still in a tight battle for fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, the Force India duo split the Williams pair, taking sixth and seventh at the chequered flag with Sergio Perez ahead. The Ferrari drivers finished off the top ten with Sebastian Vettel ninth and Kimi Raikkonen tenth. The Scuderia were 1.6 seconds off the pace but at no point did they run the soft tyre.
Vettel’s session finished three minutes early as he spun off track at Margulho on a fresh set of medium tyres. Another driver to finish the session early was Daniil Kvyat, who ended up with a right-rear puncture. The Russian finished 12th on the timesheet, just behind teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz had a three-tenth advantage on Kvyat and was two-tenths off of tenth-placed Raikkonen.
Romain Grosjean spent the session trying out two brake supplies to try and overcome the brake issues that have been hampering Haas’ performance of late. He tested out Brembo – the brand the team have been using during the season – and new brand Carbon Industrie. During his first timed lap on the Carbon INdustire brand, he locked up into Turn 1, with the same issue repeating later on in the session. Haas’ comments on the brake company have yet to be discussed, but Grosjean finished the session 15th, 2.6 seconds off the pace.
Today’s morning session saw two Friday driver’s into the cars: Charles Leclerc in the second Haas and Sergey Sirotkin in the Renault of Kevin Magnussen. The GP3 points leader finished 21st in the Haas, 3.496 seconds off the pace.
Sirotkin had a worse day after paying to participate in the morning session. He completed just ten laps before a technical issue hit his Renault with only 28 minutes of the session gone. A fuel flow problem saw the Russian park the Renault up at pit entry, but as much as Renault tried they could not get him back out on track. He will be disappointed to have not have gotten anymore track time from the 90 minute session. Sirotkin was bottom of the time sheet, 3.905 seconds off the pace.