Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton continued to set the pace at Interlagos, though he was pressed hard in second practice ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix by weekend title hopeful Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg, who is bidding to take an unassailable championship lead over Hamilton in Brazil, finished the opening practice session at the Sao Paulo circuit just over two tenths of a second behind the defending champion. In the afternoon performance runs, however, the title leading German closed the gap on his British rival to just three hundredths of a second.
Behind the Mercedes pair, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and local hero team-mate Felipe Massa also improved on their morning positions, with the Finn moving from fifth in the morning to third in the afternoon, and Massa stepping up to fourth from sixth.
Behind them came the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, with the Australian reversing their morning order by outpacing his young team-mate by a tenth of a second in the afternoon runs on soft tyres.
Williams’ hopes of closing an 11-point gap to Force India in their battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship will have been given a boost by the fact that Bottas and Massa finished the session more than half a second clear of the nearest Force India man, Nico Hulkenberg, who finished in ninth position. The German’s team-mate Sergio Perez was further back in P14 a full second adrift of Bottas.
In the morning session Ferrari chose to focus its running on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres, with the result that its drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished in ninth and tenths positions respectively.
The pair improved in the aftertnoon on the soft tyre and Vettel eventually climbed to seventh place, though he did lose part of his front wing after running hard over the kerbs late in the sesson. Raikkonen backed the four-time champion up in eighth place. However, both men were over 1500ths of a second adrift of the time of the best Red Bull, Ferrari’s rival for second place in the Constructors’ battle.
The final top 10 place in the session went to Jenson Button. The McLaren driver was restricted to just 19 laps however as he spent most of the session confined to the team’s garage. A dismal session for the Woking team was made worse when Button’s team-mate Fernando Alonso stopped on track with an ERS problem.
Elsewhere, and incident between Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Ferrari’s Raikkonen was set to be investigated after the session by race stewards. The pair ran wheel to wheel on track as Raikkonen passed the Spaniard and the Finn then appeared to cut across the Toro Rosso driver.
2016 Brazilian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.271 41
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:12.301 0.030 40
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:12.761 0.490 47
4 Felipe Massa Williams 1:12.789 0.518 43
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:12.828 0.557 43
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:12.928 0.657 45
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.002 0.731 45
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:13.047 0.776 24
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:13.299 1.028 42
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:13.440 1.169 19
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:13.572 1.301 18
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.689 1.418 46
13 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso 1:13.801 1.530 47
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1:13.918 1.647 38
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:14.074 1.803 35
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:14.109 1.838 47
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:14.309 2.038 40
18 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:14.317 2.046 46
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.436 2.165 43
20 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:14.558 2.287 42
21 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:14.695 2.424 21
22 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:14.958 2.687 22