SETTING THE PACE: Mercedes Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap during the 1st practice session of the 2016 Brazilian GP. Image: AFP / Miguel Schincariol
Sao Paulo - Lewis Hamilton topped the times to take the early initiative in Friday first practice for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix as his Mercedes team mate, championship leader Nico Rosberg, was third.
The 31-year-old Briton, who is seeking to stop his German team mate from winning Sunday's race and clinching his maiden drivers' title, was in dominant form as he clocked a best time of 1min11.895 seconds at Interlagos.
Prepping for battle
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was second for Red Bull, just 0.096 seconds adrift of the Englishman's time, with Rosberg third two-tenths of a second down on Hamilton.
On a clear, dry and straightforward day of preliminary action at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Rosberg appeared content to complete his programme of preparation for a contest in which he will become champion if he wins without any drama.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest 0.4 seconds down in the second Red Bull ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India. Bottas was 1.2 seconds down on Hamilton.
German Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the second Force India ahead of retirement-bound local hero Brazilian Felipe Massa, in the second Williams, four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel, whose Italian team have requested a review of the outcome of events in the closing laps of October's Mexican Grand Prix which is due to take place later Friday, slid off the track during the session, but rejoined without any damage.
Hamilton is seeking to win in Brazil for the first time in his career, while Rosberg is aiming to complete a hat-trick of wins on one of his favourite circuits.