First free practice at the Brazil Grand Prix topped by Lewis Hamilton.
At Felipe Massa’s final home Grand Prix and a must-win race for Lewis, Hamilton kicked off the weekend on top. Leading Verstappen by a tenth of a second, while Massa came home in eighth place.
As the season nears its end and heads towards what was set to be the start of the Halo’s time to shine, Ericsson, Palmer, Grosjean and Raikkonen were among the many to run in Interlagos with a Halo fitted to their cars.
For Ericsson, this was the first time he had run with the cockpit protection device fitted to his Sauber. But like with many, the halo’s outing was short-lived and lasted just an installation lap – with its use in Formula One at least a year away.
With many carrying out installation laps, the first time to be posted came a few minutes into the session courtesy of Pascal Wehrlein. But while the German opened the day with a 1:17.977, his soon to be former team-mate bettered his time. With the Force India bound Esteban Ocon going six-tenths quicker.
Jenson Button soon deposed the Manors of the top spot himself. But like Wehlrein and Ocon, he too was soon pushed down the leaderboard as Lewis Hamilton took P1 as the first man inside the 1:14s.
Hamilton’s early running came in line with a large aero sensor attached to the rear wing of his Mercedes. With the team not only looking ahead to next year’s regulation changes but to further understand the airflow of the car – despite both drivers looking ahead to Sunday with this year’s title decided by a Rosberg win.
For Rosberg, he opened the Brazilian Grand Prix running just over half a second down on Hamilton. But while they remained out on medium tyres, Nico reduced the margin to three-hundredths of a second while Red Bull showed early pace.
Red Bull at this stage were running highly with both drivers, unlike Ferrari. With Verstappen also at points going faster than Hamilton through the middle sector before ending the lap a few tenths down.
A switch onto soft tyres confirmed Red Bull’s challenge as well. With Verstappen going top, breaking into the 1:11s and holding a tenth lead over Rosberg. Ricciardo, meanwhile, sat a further two-tenths back.
Hamilton, though, came out a tenth up on Verstappen himself once on the soft compound tyres. With Lewis also bettering any time set during a free practice session at the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix and holding pace with his own benchmark following a cool down lap.
While Hamilton ended the 90-minute session on top, the early pace setting Button found the balance of his McLaren not to be where he would like. Complaining over the radio; “We are so far out with the balance”.
Should the balance of Magnussen’s Renault or Gutierrez’s Haas not to be where either would like, they will have one fewer sessions to amend their set-ups having sat out FP1.
For Magnussen, Sergey Sirotkin ran in his place during FP1. While Charles Leclerc took Gutierrez’s seat at Haas for the session after the Mexican announced he would not be at the team for 2017.
Magnussen, too, will not be at Renault for 2017 after rejecting their contract offer before the team retained the services of Jolyon Palmer for another year. Kevin, though, is believed to be signing a multi-year deal for Haas.
In the meantime, Kevin will be hoping his Renault is fixed for FP2 after Sirotkin’s session ended as the half-hour mark approached. For Sergey, his brief F1 outing came to an abrupt end after suddenly losing drive due to a fuel pressure problem as he accelerated out of turn 12.