Sport

Verstappen sets blistering Sao Paulo pace

Max Verstappen topped the times for Red Bull in Friday's opening practice for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, the Dutchman winding up narrowly ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and new five-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen was fastest in the first session at Sao Paulo
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen was fastest in the first session at Sao Paulo (AFP)

Max Verstappen topped the times for Red Bull in Friday's opening practice for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, the Dutchman winding up narrowly ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and new five-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

On an overcast morning at the sprawling Interlagos circuit, Verstappen, fresh from his victory in Mexico two weeks ago, clocked a best time of one minute and 9.011 seconds with both Vettel and Hamilton within a tenth of a second of his time.

His performance proved that Red Bull could be a threat to both Mercedes and Ferrari as they continue their battle for the constructors’ championship.

German Vettel clocked 1:09.060 as he and Hamilton remained in close contention, as they have all season, both men like Verstappen running on super-soft tyres.

Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen need to out-score Mercedes by 13 points to keep alive their faint hopes of stopping the ‘Silver Arrows’ from clinching their fifth consecutive teams’ title.

Daniel Ricciardo, who faces another grid penalty for Sunday’s race, was fourth in the second Red Bull ahead of Raikkonen and fellow-Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes.

Verstappen, who turned 21 in September, is still seeking to become the youngest pole-sitter in the history of F1, but has only two races remaining this year in which to achieve that feat.

Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen.