Lewis Hamilton brushed off his car crash controversy to head the order in opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s preparations for the penultimate race of his championship-winning campaign have been hampered by his mysterious incident in Monaco in the early hours of Tuesday morning. But the Briton, who is also recovering from a fever and is yet to win in Brazil, posted a best lap of one minute and 13.543 seconds to finish ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third in the standings 0.625 seconds adrift of Hamilton with the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo in fourth almost one second off the pace.
On Thursday, Hamilton revealed a fortnight of “heavy partying” and “not much rest” contributed to him hitting a stationary vehicle while driving his £1.5 milllion limited edition Pagani Zonda supercar at approximately 3:30am on Tuesday. He subsequently delayed his flight from Monaco to Sao Paulo by 24 hours, missing a sponsors’ event on Wednesday, and arriving for this weekend’s race yesterday.
Hamilton initially refused to extend on his Instagram post in which he revealed nobody was hurt in a crash in which he claimed he made “very light contact” with another stationary vehicle. But later, when speaking to the British media, Hamilton added: ‘’It was a result of heavy partying and not much rest for a week and a half.
‘’I am a bit run down. I have been non-stop and trying to fit training in at the same time and not getting a lot of sleep.’’
Yet the Briton, who sealed his third Formula One championship with three races to spare in Austin last month, led the way at Interlagos track yesterday. He was the best part of half a second up on Rosberg, winner here last year, and who is bidding to secure his fifth consecutive pole.
Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth in the opening practice session, and survived a hairy moment when he lost control of his Ferrari under braking at turn four.
A messy trip across the gravel ensued before he headed back to the garage and parked his car with a little under ten minutes of the session remaining.
Jenson Button, back at the scene of his title victory in 2009 and his last race win in 2012, believes McLaren will be back at the sharp end of the grid next season despite their awful year but was 13th fastest almost two seconds slower than Hamilton.