Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time of the first practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, as championship leader Nico Rosberg finished in seventh place.
Rosberg has a chance to this weekend wrap up the the Drivers’ title at the Autodrómo Hermanos Rodríguez if he wins and Hamilton finishes tenth or lower, but in the opening exchanges at the Mexico City circuit it was Hamilton who powered to the top of the order with a lap of 1:20.914, over seven tenths of a second clear of his team-mate. Both the Briton and the German set their best times on the medium tyre, though the pair did also run the soft compound Pirelli during the session.
Sebastian Vettel used the soft tyre for his best time of the session, a lap of 1:20.993 that left him just 0.079 off the benchmark set by Hamilton. The four-time champion’s team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was third quickest, with the same margin of 0.079 separating him from Vettel.
Sergio Perez gave his home fans something to cheer about with the morning’s fourth best time. The Mexican was followed in fifth by team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, with just over two tenths of a second separating the Force India drivers. Valtteri Bottas was sixth fastest on the soft tyre, the Finn finishing with a time of 1:21.447, two tenths clear of Rosberg.
Daniel Ricciardo was eighth for Red Bull Racing ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top ten order.
It wasn’t a completely incident-free session, with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr bringing the session to a halt for some 10 minutes after he suffered a front wing failure half an hour into running.
Max Verstappen, in the second Red Bull, also hit trouble. Soon after the resumption the Dutch driver pulled into the pit lane with streams of smoke billowing from his brakes. He failed to rejoin the action after it was discovered that the overheating, which had been caused by an energy recovering setting the team was testing, had resulted in damage to parts of the car’s loom.
Elsewhere, a number of drivers ran with the Halo head protection system during the session, with Nasr being joined by Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, Perez, Massa and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in running with the device in place.
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.914s 2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.079s 3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.158s 4. Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 0.286s 5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 0.495s 6. Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 0.533s 37. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.759s 328. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 0.813s 9. Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 0.922s 10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1.301s 11 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1.586s 12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1.649s 13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1.809s 1714 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1.963s 15 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1.996s 16 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 2.175s 17 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 2.175s 18 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 2.428s 19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 2.642s 20 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 3.169s 21 Jolyon Palmer Renault 3.183s 22 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 3.436s