Hamilton sets early pace at Interlagos

11/11/2016
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's opening session the air temperature is 25 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 34 degrees. It is bright, sunny and fairly warm.

There are two reserve drivers on duty this morning, Charles Leclerc replaced Esteban Gutierrez at Haas, while Sergey Sirotkin takes over Kevin Magnussen's Renault.

As luck would have it, this is Magnussen's penultimate race with the French team and is heavily linked with Haas, Gutierrez having confirmed overnight that he is leaving.

As in previous races a number of teams are running the Halo device this morning, Manor using it for the first time. Sauber and Force India are also trying the controversial devices for which there is no timescale in terms of its introduction.

Bottas leads the way, the Finn followed by Vettel, Grosjean, Ocon and Raikkonen.

As more drivers head out there is a balanced mixture of soft and medium while only Bottas sports the hards.

As is ever the case the drivers complete one - sometimes two - laps before heading back to the pits.

Hamilton heads out wearing an Ayrton Senna tribute helmet. The Briton's car is fitted with a very large aero sensor rake at the back of the car as Mercedes looks ahead to next season,

Eight minutes in and the track falls silent, everyone having made an appearance.

"FP1 is go," says Pirelli. "We're here with hard, medium and soft compounds (given increased aerodynamic and performance loads compared to previous years)."

As the Halo is removed from Grosjean's Haas - after just one lap - Pirelli tweets: "Expect usual FP1 test programme. We've seen all three compounds on track already."

Wehrlein, who has been snubbed by Force India in favour of teammate Ocon, posts the first time of the weekend, crossing the line at 1:17.977.

The German is soon joined on track and on the timesheets with Bottas posting 13.977 and Button 14.252.

Intriguingly, Hamilton posts 13.447 to go quickest, his car still sporting that massive aero rake. The mind boggles. The Briton is told to stay off the kerbs, particularly at T2.

Wehrlein complains about his brakes, the German saying that they pull to the left under braking.

Hamilton improves to 13.182 as Massa, in his final Brazilian Grand Prix and his car sporting Massa decals as opposed to Martini, goes third (13.860).

Rosberg, sporting 2017 components front and rear, goes second with a 13.623, 0.441s off his teammate's pace.

Raikkonen improves to fifth (14.014) and Vettel eighth (14.352) ass Ricciardo remains the only driver yet to post a time.

Rosberg improves to within 0.005s of his teammate.

Sirotkin enters the pits very, very slowly, his Renault appearing to have a power issue. "Recharge on," he is told. "Something happened, something happened," he says as mechanics run to his aid.

Ricciardo posts 13.851 to go fourth, behind Hamilton, Rosberg and Bottas.

"I screw up the lap," admits Perez as he posts 14.558.

Verstappen posts 13.722 to leapfrog his Red Bull teammate. A 13.425 subsequently sees the teenage move ahead of Bottas to third only to be demoted when Ricciardo responds with a 13.342.

"The top three have used only the medium tyre in this session so far," reveals Pirelli. "But it's very likely we'll see some rain at some point over the weekend."

Told to pit, Ricciardo is also advised to "attack at pit entry, we do not need these tyres again".

"We're already quicker than last year's FP1 time," adds Pirelli. "For reference, 2015 pole was 1:11.282s. Still some way to go to get there."

After 40 minutes the drivers head back to the pits to hand back a set of tyres.

Oh dear. The cameras pick up on Toto Wolff walking through the paddock in a pair of ripped jeans.

After several minutes of nothing, an engine finally fires up, it is the Honda in the back of Alonso's McLaren. The Spaniard heads down the pitlane.

Sirotkin's session appears to be over, the Renault suffering a fuel pressure issue. Elsewhere, the other reserve driver on duty this morning, Leclerc, performs a practice start. The Monegasque driver subsequently posts 15.391 to go 17th.

Bottas switches to the softs, as does Verstappen, the Dutch youngster going quickest in all three sectors to post an 11.991.

Moments later, Rosberg, also on the softs, posts 12.125, having only been quickest in the final two sectors.

Check out our Friday gallery from Interlagos, here.

Massa (softs) posts PB in all three sectors to go sixth with a 13.318.

Ricciardo is also unable to match Verstappen's time, the Australian posting 12.371.

"oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh... puncture, puncture," says Kvyat as he limps back to the pits with a clearly deflated right-rear.

As Grosjean locks-up, his team running an alternative brake material on one of its cars this weekend, Hamilton heads out on the softs.

As the Ferraris continue on the hard rubber, Hamilton goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 11.895 to take the top spot.

Like Ferrari, the McLaren duo has also opted to stick with the medium rubber for now.

Hamilton is told he lost a tenth to Verstappen in S1 and a couple to Nico in S3.

Next time around Hamilton goes quickest in S3 but fails to improve his overall time.

A difference of opinion between Raikkonen and his engineer Dave Greenwood, when the Finn is told that there is no time for a soft run. "My mistake, sorry," says the engineer.

As so into the long run phase, with no significant improvements to times likely.

"There is something wrong with the clutch," says Nasr. "Ok, we are checking data," comes the reply. The Brazilian is currently 16th, just ahead of his teammate.

"Most drivers now on soft tyres going for long runs," reports Pirelli. "Temperatures climbing; but how relevant will this session be?"

Initially told to pit Button is subsequently asked to stay out and complete a lap in clean air.

A spin for Vettel at T11, the Ferrari sliding backwards across the huge run-off. Needless to say there is the obligatory expletive.

"I'm a bit lost, I've got a huge problem, I need help here" warns Grosjean, "the grip of the car is gone."

The session ends with Hamilton quickest ahead of Verstappen, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg, Massa, Vettel and Raikkonen.

Sainz is eleventh, ahead of Kvyat, Button, Alonso, Grosjean, Nasr, Ericsson, Ocon, Palmer, Wehrlein, Leclerc and Sirotkin.

Not the most scintillating of sessions, but other than the threat of rain there is also the fact that Ferrari has yet to try the soft tyre. Though how much that accounts for the 1.6s gap to Mercedes remains to be seen.

Check out our Friday gallery from Interlagos, here.

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Published: 11/11/2016
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