GOOD START: Lewis Hamilton was the quickest driver in the first practice session for the Mexico Grand Prix. Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
Mexico City - Defending champion Lewis Hamilton topped the times for Mercedes ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in Friday's opening free practice for this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 26 points with three races remaining, was down in seventh place, seven-tenths of a second off the pace in a session that saw both Ferraris clocking fast times.
Mexican driver Perez fourth fastest
Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest in the second Ferrari ahead of the two Mercedes-powered Force Indias of local star Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg with Valtteri Bottas taking sixth spot for Williams, also powered by Mercedes.
The session was run in cool conditions at the relatively high altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit where the long straight favoured cars with powerful engines.
More: 1st Practice - As it happened
There was one incident that required a red flag when Brazilian Felipe Nasr's Sauber suffered a disintegration of its front wing, leaving debris across the circuit. The action was halted for 10 minutes.
Both of the Red Bull cars appeared to suffer from a loss of power in the thin air.
Daniel Ricciardo was down in eighth place and team-mate Max Verstappen was 14th after he suffered from over-heating brakes that required the use of a fire extinguisher.
Hamilton's best lap time of 1min20.914 lifted him 0.073 seconds clear of Vettel at the end of the session.