By Marcelo Teixeira
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton put talk of his party lifestyle and fatigue to one side on Friday with the fastest lap in first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Briton, who had delayed his arrival in Brazil due to a fever and after a car accident in Monaco in the early hours of Tuesday morning, was more than half a second faster than Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton, who has never won in Brazil in eight attempts, was the only driver below the one minute 14 seconds mark with a best time of 1:13.543 on medium tyres at the anti-clockwise Interlagos circuit.
It was the first time he had been fastest in a first practice session since Monza in September.
Rosberg, last year’s Brazilian GP winner who arrived in Sao Paulo fresh from his success in Mexico, was second fastest with a best effort of 1:14.062 ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, using the latest specification Renault engine, was fourth.
With both titles already decided, Hamilton having won his third world crown in Texas last month, teams used the session to work on developments for next season with aerodynamic sensors prominent on bodywork.
Mercedes drew a lot of interest for a prominent bulge on the nose that was rumoured to be an ‘S Duct’, a device helping to channel air from under the car to the top surface of the front section.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was fifth fastest, had an off late in the session when his rare brakes locked into turn four and he tracked across the mud and gravel without further incident.
Lotus reserve Jolyon Palmer, who will be one of the team’s race drivers next year, was involved in the morning’s other moment of near drama when his car was released from the garage into the path of McLaren’s Jenson Button, who braked.
Hamilton’s return to form came after a day of headlines about his party lifestyle with the 30-year-old Briton — whose helmet this weekend carries a tribute to his late boyhood idol Ayrton Senna — recognising he had been overdoing things.
“It was a result of heavy partying and not much rest for a week and a half,” the Briton told reporters.
“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.”
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)