SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Mercedes led the way in the opening practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, with newly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton 0.127s faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas at the top of the timesheets.
Hamilton's time of 1:09.202 was 0.62s faster than the existing Interlagos track record held by Rubens Barrichello since qualifying for the 2004 grand prix. Such a step in speed underlines the impressive performance of this year's cars, with significantly quicker lap times expected as the weekend progresses.
It also underlined the impressive performance of the Mercedes on a track where Ferrari and Red Bull are expected to perform well. Hamilton held a 0.542s advantage over the fastest Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who just beat Red Bull's Max Verstappen to third place by 0.006s.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest, but will face a ten-place penalty from wherever he qualifies on Saturday after his team was forced to fit an eighth MGU-H unit to his car ahead of the start of the session. He finished 0.156s up on Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari, who spun at low speed early in the session and failed to hook up a clean lap over the 90 minutes.
Felipe Massa got his final Brazilian Grand Prix off to a strong start, with the seventh fastest time in the Williams. Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso also featured in the top ten for McLaren and were split by the Force India of Esteban Ocon in ninth.
Lance Stroll was 0.530s off his Williams teammate in 11th ahead of Mercedes junior driver George Russell, who made his race weekend debut during a first practice outing in Sergio Perez's Force India. It was Russell's second F1 experience after a two-day test with Mercedes in Hungary earlier this year, and he impressed with a time 0.593s off teammate Ocon.
The Haas drivers of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were 13th and 14th, with Magnussen due to hand over his car to Ferrari-backed Antonio Giovinazzi for the afternoon session. Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg were 15th and 16th for Renault ahead of the two Saubers after Charles Leclerc substituted in for Pascal Wehrlein in the morning session.
Both Toro Rossos hit trouble, with Brendon Hartley's Renault power unit expiring early in the session and Pierre Gasly completing a total of just four laps. The problems follow three power unit failures on Hartley's car at the Mexican Grand Prix and will result in grid penalties for both cars ahead of Sunday's race.