Brazilian GP: Hamilton outpaces Verstappen by 0.3s in FP1

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Hamilton ended up over 0.3s clear of Verstappen as he completed three qualifying simulation efforts on the soft tyres, while behind Sergio Perez finished third ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

As the only chance for the teams to make car set-up decisions before they are locked in from the start of Friday qualifying, there was plenty of action at the start of the one-hour session.

Kimi Raikkonen established the first place benchmark time at 1m14.960s on the hard tyres, with the early running all taking place on that rubber and the mediums.

Fernando Alonso following Raikkonen’s then quickest time with a 1m12.871s as the drivers posted their opening efforts, with the Alpine racer soon deposed by Bottas’s 1m12.666s – set on the mediums – and Perez’s 1m11.774s, also completed on the yellow-walled rubber.

Verstappen, who had been one of the last drivers to take to the track, then moved ahead on a 1m11.484s and he continued to the lower the fastest time as his opening run went on.

Twice more the championship leader bettered his own leading time, eventually working that down to a 1m10.189s as the opening 10 minutes came to a close.

That stood as the best time for the next 25, with the action dying down as spots of rain began to fall starting in the first section.

Mercedes kept Hamilton out for much longer than most during the first half of FP1, with the world champion regularly complaining about his front suspension being stiff and bouncing vertically as he pounded around on the near-empty track – his best time on the mediums 0.849s slower than Verstappen’s.

But the drivers were sent out en masse again at the start of the second half of the session, with the Red Bull drivers leading the switch to the soft tyres for qualifying simulation efforts.

Verstappen led Perez around and improved the top spot time to a 1m09.417s, with the fastest time in the middle sector, while his teammate came in just 0.075s adrift and the quickest times in the first and final thirds of the lap.

Bottas was the first Mercedes driver to switch to the softs a few minutes later, and his 1m09.867s put him third behind the Red Bull pair – 0.450s slower than Verstappen.

It was with just over 15 minutes remaining before Hamilton emerged on the softs, with Briton ending up 0.351s behind Verstappen with a 1m09.768s – that slotted him in ahead of Bottas – as he lost time as the lap went on and failed to beat his personal best on the mediums in the final sector.

Bottas went out again for another run on his softs shortly after this, setting a quickest time in the first sector before fading back to 0.150s adrift.

Hamilton then mirrored his teammate’s run plan with a second go on the same set of softs and he too improved – going fastest with a 1m09.348s with fastest times in the first and third sectors, where Hamilton ran behind Nikita Mazepin in the run up the hill through the final corner and pit straight, picking a slipstream benefit.

But he was then able to improve again – this time without a tow at the end of the lap – as Hamilton ended up with the session’s fastest time on a 1m09.050s.

Red Bull did not send its drivers out for a late response ahead of Friday qualifying, with Verstappen’s best time from earlier in FP1 leaving him 0.367s slower than his world title rival, while Perez finished third ahead of Bottas, who was 0.517 s adrift of Hamilton’s leading time.

Pierre Gasly took fifth with a late flyer on the softs, while Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari six-seven, with the latter one of several drivers to have lock-ups going into the first corner during the initial running, and then in the closing stages he slipped into the runoff beyond Turn 4 and the end of the second straight, clattering the kerbs heavily as he rejoined.

Verstappen had a similar moment to Leclerc as Red Bull completed a run of race-data gathering late in the session, with his front wing sparking heavily as it struck the kerbs when the Dutchman moved to get back on the track.

Esteban Ocon was eighth ahead of his Alpine teammate Alonso, the pair setting the best times on the medium tyres, with Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10.

The McLaren duo Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo also did not run the softs in FP1, ending up 15th and 19th respectively.

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