Verstappen fastest in first Brazilian GP practice

Red Bull's Max Verstappen during practice for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday. — Reuters

SAO PAULO — Mexican Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen picked up where he left off by lapping fastest for Red Bull in first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday.

The Dutch driver, whose Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo will have a five-place grid penalty for a change of turbocharger, lapped the anti-clockwise Interlagos circuit with a best time of one minute 09.011 seconds.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was second on the timesheets in 1:09.060 with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, his fifth Formula One championship won in Mexico City last month and reflected in the five stars on his helmet, third on an overcast morning.

The top three, all on super-soft tires, were separated by less than a tenth of a second, however. Sunday's main focus is the battle for the constructors' championship, with Mercedes poised to win for the fifth year in a row and with one race to spare providing Ferrari do not outscore them by 13 points.

Hamilton finished fourth in Mexico and has a habit of not winning again in a season where he takes the title early, something he is keen to end.

Ricciardo, who started on pole in Mexico but suffered an agonizing retirement, was fourth fastest ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes Valtteri Bottas, who lost time as Mercedes investigated a possible oil leak.

Verstappen can still become the youngest driver to take a pole position on Saturday but the 21-year-old has played down his chances of beating Mercedes and Ferrari. "I think that there are not enough corners here to make up losses we have on the straights," he had told reporters on Thursday.

Haas were best of the rest, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen seventh and eighth. Antonio Giovinazzi, who will replace Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc at Sauber next season, took Marcus Ericsson's car for the opening session and was 13th fastest.

British teenager Lando Norris, another 2019 rookie, was also on track in Fernando Alonso's McLaren and was faster on the quicker soft tires than the team's departing Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne on mediums.

Force India also gave a practice outing to Canadian Nicolas Latifi, who was bottom of the timesheets.

Earlier, stewards said the sixth new turbocharger exceeded the driver's permitted allocation, triggering the automatic drop, on Ricciardo’s penalty. Ricciardo was first out of the garages in practice at Interlagos on Friday, waiting for several minutes at the end of the pits for the session to start.

Under Formula One rules, grid penalties are applied according to the order in which the offenses are committed, as registered by the car's transponder leaving the pitlane.

That means anyone else who picks up a penalty will have it applied after Ricciardo's. The Australian, who is joining Renault for next season, said afterwards that he did not see the point in doing the last two races but soon changed his mind.

"I was angry and upset. At the time I felt like I meant it but deep down I didn't," a disappointed Ricciardo told Sky Sports television. "It was a good way to express how I felt. Fortunately, I tend to wake up Monday morning and it's like a new day and I can forget pretty quickly the Sunday."

Fittipaldi's grandson joins

Haas F1 team as test driver

Pietro Fittipaldi, 22-year-old grandson of Brazil's two times Formula One world champion Emerson, will be official test driver for Haas next year, the US-owned team said on Friday. The Miami-born Brazilian will also take part in a Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 27.

Team principal Guenther Steiner said Fittipaldi, whose grandfather is also a two times Indianapolis 500 winner, would bring "a championship-winning pedigree" from his junior open-wheel career and IndyCar.

"We’re happy to provide Pietro his first test in a Formula One car off the back of those experiences," he said in a statement at the Brazilian Grand Prix. "His subsequent role (in) testing, and the feedback he’ll provide in support of our 2019 campaign, will no doubt further contribute to Haas F1 team’s growth and development in Formula One."

Fittipaldi made six starts for Dale Coyne racing in the US IndyCar series this year, five after returning from a broken leg suffered during a World Endurance Championship race at Spa in Belgium last May.

"I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the VF-18 in Abu Dhabi. I’ll carry that experience forward into 2019, and hopefully into a race seat in Formula One in the future," he said.

Haas have confirmed Denmark's Kevin Magnussen and Frenchman Romain Grosjean as their two race drivers for 2019. Emerson Fittipaldi won his titles with Lotus and McLaren in 1972 and 1974 respectively. — Reuters