SAO PAULO (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton shrugged off the aftermath of his exhaustion, fever and recent car crash on Friday morning, when he topped the times in opening free practice for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.
The three-time world champion clocked a best lap of 1min 13.543sec to finish 0.519sec clear of his nearest rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as he began preparations in pursuit of his first victory in nine attempts at Interlagos.
The 30-year-old Briton had arrived 24 hours later than scheduled, on Thursday, at the sprawling, but spectacular circuit where he has admitted he is keen "to salute" his childhood hero Ayrton Senna with a triumph on the Brazilian's home soil on Sunday.
Having shaken off the lingering after-affects of his non-alcohol-induced "hangover" following an intense period of work and partying, he proved again that his high-speed lifestyle does not appear to hamper his high-speed control of an F1 racing car despite struggles with the braking at Turn One, the first part of the famous Senna curves, where he locked up several times.
The two Mercedes men finished the session ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel in the leading Ferrari, Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Russian Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull.
In a session that saw Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, of Toro Rosso, Vettel and Raikkonen all spinning as they worked to find the limits of the circuit and their revised cars, Hamilton's sheer speed was clearly evident once again.
Verstappen was eighth-fastest behind Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams, but ahead of German Nico Huelkenberg of Force India and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Lotus.
Hamilton clinched his third world title at the United States Grand Prix last month, but Rosberg bounced back to beat him in Mexico two weeks ago, after which Hamilton embarked on his spell of intense activity culminating in a surprise 60th birthday party for his mother in London last weekend, followed by a collision into several other stationary cars in Monte Carlo in the early hours of Tuesday.
He then conceded that he was over-tired and delayed his travel to Brazil.