Verstappen, who dominated all three practice sessions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, has seemingly brought that momentum to Interlagos, the Dutchman setting the pace under the grey Sao Paulo clouds to once again lead his teams pursuit of victory.
It was by the narrowest of margins, however, with Ferraris Sebastian Vettel just 0.049s behind the leader while Mercedes Lewis Hamilton, fresh from his championship-clinching exploits in Mexico, was a slender 0.047s further back in third.
Mercedes hasnt fully solved “mystery” of poor form – Hamilton
While Verstappen was buoyant in Mexico, his team mate Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable time a fortnight ago, and its already been confirmed that he will face a five-place grid penalty on Sunday after Red Bull fitted his RB14 with new power-unit elements.
Mercedes may not solve slump in form before end of season – Hamilton
That didnt put him off too much in FP1, though, the Renault-bound driver coming home fourth – and behind him, Kimi Raikkonen won the battle of the Finns with Valtteri Bottas, the Ferrari driver going 0.108s faster than his Mercedes rival to finish in P5.
Away from the top three teams, Renault and Haas are locked in a fierce battle for the best-of-the-rest accolade this season – and it was the latter who won the FP1 tussle in Brazil, with Romain Grosjean finishing in P7 ahead of team mate Kevin Magnussen.
And it was another promising session for Saubers Ferrari-bound driver Charles Leclerc, who despite being 1.335s slower than Verstappen, finished narrowly ahead of Force Indias Esteban Ocon.
The plane journey that convinced Ferrari on Leclerc
A relatively low-key session then, though McLarens Lando Norris – one of three Friday practice drivers to get a run out – and Magnussen both survived off-track moments, with grip at a premium at Interlagos.
To top if off, Hamilton had a Louis Vuitton wash bag attached to his waist, to create a look straight out of the local thrift store. That said, when youve won five world drivers championships, you probably have carte blanche to dress as you like.
So its Red Bull with the upper hand (but only just) going into Fridays second session. And with a possible shower of rain making an appearance, it should be exciting….
The seasons are getting longer, and the off-time is getting shorter, so from a competitors point of view the turnaround is short. You start preparing for next year as soon as the season is so done, so getting your mind tuned is very difficult.
Red Bulls Max Verstappen headed Ferraris Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamiltons Mercedes in first practice at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Red Bulls Daniel Ricciardo was fourth, 0.384secs off his team-mate, ahead of Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
To do so, they simply have to ensure Ferrari do not score 12 more points than them. Hamilton clinched a fifth drivers title at the last race in Mexico.
There were a couple of very minor incidents in the second half of the session, with Mercedes quickly fixing an oil leak on Bottas’ car and Kevin Magnussen’s morning ending early after ruining his supersofts with a big lock-up.
Hamilton is hoping he can bounce back to competitiveness this weekend, after two races in which Mercedes have struggled for pace.
The world champion said Mercedes had not yet got to the bottom of their problems, particularly in Mexico, where the issue in the race was a lack of tyre temperature, which led to excessive tyre damage.
“It is not always the case you find all the solutions,” Hamilton said, “so I am confident everyone has worked as hard as they can to rectify it and push forward but it might take this race and even the next race before we fully understand it.
Raikkonen warns champion Hamilton that Ferrari want Constructors title
Hamilton has also said he wants to break a run in which he has failed to win another race after clinching the title in seasons in which he became champion early.
“Certainly there is a lot of stuff that happened this year and we will be able to, as a team and as an individual, be able to learn from it and take it forward and raise the bar next year.
Best of the rest were the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, followed by Saubers Charles Leclerc and the Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Vettel defeat was sealed at the last race in Mexico when, despite beating Lewis Hamilton out on track, the Mercedes driver claimed enough points to take an unassailable lead in the standings.
Briton Lando Norris, running in first practice in Fernando Alonsos McLaren in preparation for his debut next season, was 16th fastest.
Regular McLaren racer Stoffel Vandoorne, who Norris is replacing in 2019, was 19th, using the hardest medium tyre, while Norris was on the quicker soft tyre.