Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in first practice for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the Mercedes driver already set for a more challenging race day regardless courtesy of a five-place grid drop for an engine component change.
The seven-time world champion, who is 19 points adrift of title rival Max Verstappen with four races to go, clocked a 1:09.050s on his third flying lap on the soft tyres in the final few minutes of the session at Interlagos.
It came after the FIA revealed just minutes after the green light flickered on in the pit lane that Hamilton had fitted a fresh internal combustion engine, to trigger a grid drop for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Mercedes and Red Bull took differing approaches to the weekend’s only pre-qualifying practice session – as it’s an F1 Sprint weekend. Mercedes duo Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas opted to do multiple runs on the same set of soft tyres – with cool down laps in between – later in the one-hour session. Red Bull did their runs much earlier in the session, and limited their tours on the red-rimmed tyre.
Verstappen – who was fastest of all in the middle sector by around three tenths – ended up second quickest, 0.367s off the pace, with his Red Bull team mate a tenth further back in third. Bottas was fourth, albeit half a second off the leading time.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN GRANDE PRÊMIO DE SÃO PAULO 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:09.050|
|2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||+0.367s|
|3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||+0.442s|
|4 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.517s|
|5 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||+0.830s|
While there was drizzle early in the session, it was never close to wet enough for intermediates, meaning drivers could focus on learning about the soft, medium and hard tyres ahead of qualifying later on Friday.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly – who had a little squabble with Fernando Alonso as they jostled for position on the approach to the start-finish – was an impressive fifth fastest, ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Esteban Ocon was the leading Alpine in eighth, half a tenth ahead of team mate Alonso with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll completed the top 10, 1.302s off the pace.
Yuki Tsunoda missed out on a top-10 birth in 11th, half a second behind team mate Gasly, with Sebastian Vettel 12th. Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen edged out team mate Antonio Giovinazzi for 13th, with Lando Norris the top performing McLaren in 15th.
Mick Schumacher finished clear of not one but both Williams cars in 16th, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell filing in behind in 17th and 18th respectively, with Daniel Ricciardo somewhat out of position in 19th and Nikita Mazepin propping up the classification.