Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2021

Hamilton leads Verstappen in only practice session before qualifying

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix first practice

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[raceweekendpromotion]Lewis Hamilton was unhappy with the balance of his Mercedes at the start of practice for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, but ended the session with the fastest time.

All 20 cars were ready to take to the track when practice 1 began at 12:30 local time. Championship leader Max Verstappen wasted little time before settling in at the front of the field. A string of fast laps on the medium compound tyres culminated with a best time of 1’10.189, putting Verstappen’s Red Bull-Honda at the top of the table early on.

Sergio Perez followed suit on the medium tyres, setting a 1’10.209 to get within two hundredths of his team mate.

Drivers reported drizzle after 20 minutes of running, and track temperatures began to drop significantly compared to the start of the session. The rain got a touch harder over the following 10 minutes, but eventually stopped with around a quarter of an hour to go.

Both Red Bulls then went out for a stint on the soft compound tyres. Verstappen set a 1’09.417, and Perez slotted back in behind him with a 1’09.492.

The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas couldn’t get within three tenths of Verstappen on their soft tyre runs. Bottas put in a 1’09.867, then Hamilton lowered the team’s best to a 1’09.768.

On their second runs, Bottas improved to a 1’09.560, and with the assistance of a tow along the front stretch, Hamilton set a 1’09.348 to jump to the top of the standings. The reigning world champion improved on his final flying lap, setting a 1’09.050 to lead the session at the chequered flag.

Behind him were the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez, then Bottas. Best of the rest was the AlphaTauri-Honda of Pierre Gasly in fifth, then the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc in sixth and seventh.

The two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, on the medium compound tyres, finished eighth and ninth, and the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll rounded off the top ten in Friday’s initial practice.

11th place Yuki Tsunoda recorded 33 laps to lead all drivers, followed by Gasly and Leclerc with 32 laps each.

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’09.05031
233Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’09.4170.36722
311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’09.4920.44228
477Valtteri BottasMercedes1’09.5670.51730
510Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’09.8800.83032
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’10.1241.07431
716Charles LeclercFerrari1’10.1421.09232
831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’10.1451.09527
914Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’10.2011.15126
1018Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’10.3521.30227
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’10.3741.32433
125Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’10.4131.36328
137Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’10.4431.39331
1499Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’10.5871.53731
154Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’10.6101.56027
1647Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’10.8851.83527
176Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’10.9021.85223
1863George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’10.9381.88824
193Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’10.9901.94025
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’11.3422.29228

First practice visual gaps

Lewis Hamilton – 1’09.050

+0.367 Max Verstappen – 1’09.417

+0.442 Sergio Perez – 1’09.492

+0.517 Valtteri Bottas – 1’09.567

+0.830 Pierre Gasly – 1’09.880

+1.074 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’10.124

+1.092 Charles Leclerc – 1’10.142

+1.095 Esteban Ocon – 1’10.145

+1.151 Fernando Alonso – 1’10.201

+1.302 Lance Stroll – 1’10.352

+1.324 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’10.374

+1.363 Sebastian Vettel – 1’10.413

+1.393 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’10.443

+1.537 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’10.587

+1.560 Lando Norris – 1’10.610

+1.835 Mick Schumacher – 1’10.885

+1.852 Nicholas Latifi – 1’10.902

+1.888 George Russell – 1’10.938

+1.940 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’10.990

+2.292 Nikita Mazepin – 1’11.342

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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14 comments on “Hamilton leads Verstappen in only practice session before qualifying”

  1. Interesting session. It seems pretty close between Red Bull and Mercedes. By the time the track was a bit more rubbered in towards the end of the session, Red Bull were doing longer, higher-fuel runs and Mercedes were still focussing on quali pace. I might be wrong but from what I saw, Red Bull set their fastest laps with around 25-30 minutes still left in the session whilst Mercedes were still improving right up until the end.

    Red Bull are comfortably faster in the middle sector with Mercedes much faster down the straight. It’ll be very difficult for a Red Bull to keep a Mercedes behind if they get within range and equally difficult to overtake in the usual places.

    1. I sense RBR will find plenty of pace in qualifying. They just didn’t seemed stressed about fp1. But yeah Mercedes speed up the hill could make the sprint interesting if they are chasing.

  2. Having only one FP session is ridiculous.

    1. Now we have the qualifying that isn’t qualifying this evening @paeschli. Ridiculous indeed, can’t stand this format.

    2. If even I, an F1 fan, doesn’t know what the event program is or where I could watch it, what hope for the ‘casual’ fan all this is meant to attract!

      Even the Racefans.net Google calendar says there’s an FP2 so they dunno either.

  3. Same as with the prior 2 sprint weekends I just struggled to get that into FP1 because of how rushed everything is with just the 1 hour leading into qualifying.

    I usually always enjoy watching practice, I enjoy just sitting back & watching the cars, Switching around the OnBoard feeds & analysing what everyone is doing & how cars are handing & with the normal weekend format with the 2 hours & the more laid back feel you get without all the added pressure on Friday i’ve plenty time to do that.

    But with the sprint weekend it just feels more rushed & manic right from the off which I don’t like as it gives less time to really take anything in as I usually would.

    I was going to skip the sprint tomorrow anyway but i’m probably going to skip the day altogether now & going forward for future sprint weekends I think i’ll just watch the actual qualifying session & Sunday GP as I just don’t like this format at all.

    1. I guess I could Sky+ qualifying & watch the recording instead of the sprint to get a more normal weekend format, Although I never get the same buzz or excitement watching something recorded & it would also be risking spoilers which would again take some of the excitement out of watching it.

      1. @stefmeister I’ll be DVR’ing qualifying & watching it tomorrow instead of the gimmick race.

        My gimmick weekend format going forward will consist of me not watching any of the practice sessions, DVR the real qualifying & watching it in it’s proper Saturday slot & then tuning into the GP 5 minutes before the start.

        I want to watch as little of the gimmick weekend coverage as possible & want nothing to do with the gimmick race. Just a shame that they try to make it qualifying and award points to the championship to try & blackmail the dedicated fans who dislike it to watch it thinking that if it decides the grid/awards points we’ll feel we have to watch. I refuse to fall for this blackmail & encourage others who dislike it to also turn it off.

        Vote with your eyeballs!

        #VoteWithYourEyeballs #TurnOffTheSprint #DownWithTheSprints #EyesOffSprint

        1. @roger-ayles – Same. I watched the first 2 but since Brawn has made it clear me watching it = me supporting and loving it, I’ve got no choice this weekend.

          It’s a shame because it could be a really important session for the Championship. I might end up finding a way to watch it but it certainly won’t be on anything that counts towards the viewing figures.

        2. #MasisTimeIsOver

  4. Lewis Hamilton was unhappy with the balance of his Mercedes at the start of practice for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, but ended the session with the fastest time.

    How many times did it happen in 2021? It summarises one of its most frequent events.

  5. Commentators had a bit of fun with Bottas’ excuse for a poor turn 1 in Mexico because the straight was too long. Mercedes still has straight line speed. Let’s see how they handle it this weekend.

  6. I think Max should change an engine as well, all he has to do is finish in front of Hamilton even if they are only 3rd and 4th

    1. One thing that hasn’t been talked about much but Horner and Toto confirmed in interviews today is Max has 3 engines in the pool – the only one that can’t be used is the one damaged at Silverstone.

      Hamilton only has 2 – the new one and the one they’ve just taken out which is down on power.

      I guess Red Bull feel they have enough between the 3 to make it. If they win this weekend and do well over the next 2 races, they might go into Abu Dhabi having already won so it could be just Brazil and 2 races left with 3 engines to cover it.

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