As the Formula One World Driver’s Championship comes to its climax for a duel in the desert, Lewis Hamitlon has started the weekend on the front foot by finishing Free Practice One fastest.
Mercedes appeared to be in a class of their own during the 90-minute session as the fastest lap was swapped between Hamitlon and Championship rival Nico Rosberg. It was advantage Rosberg in the opening half of the session as he was two-tenths up on Hamitlon using the ultra soft tyres before improving to an impressive eight-tenth pace advantage.
It was after the lull in action where the tyres get handed back to Pirelli and the drivers move onto their allocation of tyres that Hamilton picked up the pace. He managed to go 0.374 seconds faster than teammate Rosberg, setting a 1:42.869. This would be the fastest lap of the session.
12 points separate Hamilton and Rosberg, with Rosberg only needing to end up on the podium to secure his maiden Championship. If Hamilton does not finish on the podium then it does not matter where Rosberg finishes, the German driver will become World Champion.
Both Red Bull drivers were half a tenth off of the pace of th Brakely team and appear to be Mercedes closest, and maybe only, threat this weekend. Verstappen finsihed thrid ahead of his Australian teammate.
Sebastian Vettel finished ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was seventh, 1.136 seconds off the pace. The deficit had been 1.5 seconds but track evolution saw the cars picking up more speed as the session went on. Sergio Perez split the Ferraris for sixth.
Carlos Sainz Jr was in the mix for the top ten, with an interesting show of performance from the car running a 2015 Ferrari engine. He finished ahead of Felipe Massa and Marcus Ericsson, rounding off the top ten.
Alfonso Celis Jr showed an impressive performance as he took the wheel of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India. He had been running in ninth before some improvements from behind him dropped him to 11th.
Jordan King also stood in for the morning practice session, taking Esteban Ocon’s Manor. He finished 21st, only ahead of Daniil Kvyat who only managed to set one lap time before he picked up a puncture than forced him to sit the rest of the session out.
There were a few spins at the hairpin, with King, Massa and Hamitlon all becoming victims of the slippery corner.
Romain Grosjean had an issue with his Haas’ brakes. The Frenchman finished 12th fastest after his brakes failed on the run into Turn 1. He locked up his tyres and slid straight on at the first corner, very lucky to not plant the car into the tyre barrier.