Alexander Albon ended fastest in the opening free practice session at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace on Friday, but the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver blotted his copybook by hitting the barriers late on.
The track was completely wet when the session got underway in Interlagos, and it was a while before Carlos Sainz Jr. set the first timed lap for the McLaren F1 Team on the full wet tyres. He was quickly outpaced by Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but it was not until the Intermediate tyres were used that times began to tumble.
Leclerc was amongst the first to switch to the intermediates and immediately went more than four seconds faster than he did on the full wets, before Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes AMG Motorsport to the top of the timesheets. Not long after, Albon set his session topping time of 1:16.399, more than half a second faster than the best Bottas could do on the same compound of tyre.
Towards the end of the session, with the track drying, a number of drivers took to the track on dry weather tyres, but Albon’s run, and the session as a whole, was cut short when he crashed into the barriers at the penultimate corner. It was a slow accident, but the wet track and slick tyres meant he crashed into the barrier and broke his front wing and right front suspension.
He was not the only driver to have a moment, with team-mate Max Verstappen spinning heading into turn two and Daniil Kvyat doing likewise in his Scuderia Toro Rosso at turn one. However, unlike Albon, both the Dutchman and Russian were able to escape without hitting anything.
The red flags were shown as Albon extracted himself from his car, with the medical car being called to the incident as a precaution. However, the Thai driver appeared to be unhurt, but his mechanics have some work to do in order to prepare the RB15 for the second session of the day later this afternoon.
Sebastian Vettel was able to leapfrog team-mate Leclerc to finish the session third fastest, with Sainz ending fifth for McLaren ahead of Interlagos specialist Nico Hülkenberg and the German’s Renault F1 Team team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Pierre Gasly and Kvyat ensured Toro Rosso had both cars inside the top nine, while Lando Norris put the second McLaren into the top ten.
George Russell just missed out on the top ten for the Williams F1 Team, the Briton completing eighteen laps of the Interlagos track on his first appearance since his run with the Sahara Force India F1 Team there in 2017. The 2018 FIA Formula 2 champion ended just ahead of Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen and Racing Point F1 Team’s Lance Stroll, while the Alfa Romeo Racing pairing of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi ended up fourteenth and fifteenth respectively.
Only sixteen drivers completed timed laps, the slowest being the reserve driver for the Williams F1 Team, Nicholas Latifi, who was running the session in place of regular driver Robert Kubica. It was the Canadian’s final free practice appearance of the sesson, with many believing Latifi is likely to be Russell’s full-time team-mate at Williams in 2020.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, Red Bull’s Verstappen, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton all failed to set a lap time, but all did venture out on track for at least one installation lap.
Conditions are expected to be dry, or at least dryer, for the afternoon session in Brazil, with no rain expected on either Saturday or Sunday.
Autódromo José Carlos Pace Free Practice 1 Result
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