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Hamilton tops Brazil practice but has to serve grid penalty in GP

Munich, World champion Lewis Hamilton topped first practice for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix ahead of title rival Max Verstappen but faces a setback having to start Sunday's race with a five-place grid penalty.

Mercedes driver Hamilton clocked 1 minute 9.050 seconds on the 4.309-kilometres Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, putting him an impressive .367 of a second ahead of Red Bull's Verstappen, dpa reported.

Sergio Perez was third in the second Red Bull and Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas fourth.

The Brazil weekend is the third and last of the season featuring a sprint race which means that qualifying is later Friday, second practice and the sprint Saturday while the actual race is Sunday as usual.

Qualifying is for the sprint and the result of that short half-hour race, where the winner gets three championship points, determines the grid for the proper grand prix Sunday where a maximum 26 points are up for grabs.

Verstappen leads the championship 19 points ahead of Hamilton into the last four races and gets an additional boost because Hamilton will drop five places on Sunday's grid from his sprint finish.

"Lewis has taken a new Internal Combustion Engine for this event - his fifth of the season - and will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Brazil GP," Mercedes tweeted.

The seven-time world champion served a 10-place grid penalty recently in Turkey for changing engine components. Drivers are penalised if they use more than three power units in a season.

Source: Bahrain News Agency