SETTING THE PACE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sets the pace during the first practice session ahead of the 2015 Brazilian GP. Image: AP / Silvia Izquierdo
Sao Paulo, Brazil - Lewis Hamilton shrugged off the aftermath of his exhaustion, fever and recent car crash when he topped the times during the first practice sessions ahead of the 2015 Brazilian GP.
The newly-crowned three-time world champion clocked a best lap of one 1min13.543 seconds to finish 0.519 seconds clear of his nearest rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as he began preparations in pursuit of his first victory in nine attempts at Interlagos.
Hamilton had arrived 24 hours later than scheduled, on Thursday, at the sprawling, but spectacular circuit where he has admitted he is keen "to salute" his childhood hero Ayrton Senna with a triumph on the Brazilian's home soil on Sunday.
Having shaken off the lingering after-affects of his non-alcohol-induced 'hangover' following an intense period of work and partying, he proved again that his high-speed lifestyle does not appear to hamper his high-speed control of an F1 racing car despite struggles with the braking at Turn One, the first part of the famous Senna curves, where he locked up several times.
The two Mercedes men finished the session ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel in the leading Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Russian Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull.
In a session that saw Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, of Toro Rosso, Vettel and Raikkonen all spinning as they worked to find the limits of the circuit and their revised cars, Hamilton's sheer speed was clearly evident once again.
Verstappen was eighth-fastest behind Valtteri Bottas of Williams but ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Pastor Maldonado of Lotus.
Hamilton clinched his third world title at the United States Grand Prix last month, but Rosberg bounced back to beat him in Mexico two weeks ago, after which Hamilton embarked on his spell of intense activity culminating in a surprise 60th birthday party for his mother in London last weekend followed by a collision with several other stationary cars in Monte Carlo in the early hours of Tuesday.
He then conceded he was over-tired and delayed his travel to Brazil.