Lewis Hamilton made the perfect start to a potentially title-clinching weekend in Mexico as he out-paced Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen to top the timesheets in a competitive first practice.

Hamilton will claim a sixth F1 championship on Sunday if he outscores Valtteri Bottas by 14 points and his 1:17.327 in the Mercedes was enough for top spot in the opening session – on a damp Mexico City track after overnight rain.

But Ferrari, billed as the pre-race favourites due to the long straight, will be happy with their pace as Leclerc was only a tenth off Hamilton despite setting his fastest time on the medium tyre compared to the Mercedes on the softs.

“That’s the big key,” said Sky F1’s David Croft. “With the difference between the soft and mediums, that puts Ferrari on the front foot.”

When’s the Mexican GP on Sky?

Lewis Hamilton can clinch his sixth world championship at the Mexican GP – and you can watch it all exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.

Martin Brundle added: “I think Ferrari will be pretty satisfied with that session.”

Sebastian Vettel, also on the mediums in the other Ferrari, was only sixth and seven-tenths slower than his young team-mate.

The rest of the leading cars were on the quickest tyre and Max Verstappen ensured the top three were split by a tenth as he finished just behind Leclerc, while Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon was further back in fourth.

Bottas needs a miraculous finish to the season to deny Hamilton a sixth crown but he was only fifth, 0.6s off the pace.