After a wet start to Friday practice at Interlagos, teams had hoped for drier weather in the afternoon. Instead, the clouds grew darker and heavier rain fell on the outskirts of São Paulo. What didn’t change was the dominance of Nico Rosberg.
The Mercedes driver was the fastest man in the early stages of the session, with the field running on full-wet tyre. When the intensity of the rain reduced in the last few minutes, he emerged on the intermediate rubber and again claimed the session’s fastest lap, beating off spirited competition from the Red Bulls, with Sebastian Vettel finishing second and Mark Webber third.
Behind the front three, Heikki Kovalainen was fourth, having had a successful first day of wet running for Lotus, finishing narrowly ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Jean-Eric Vergne was sixth for Toro Rosso, Felipe Massa seventh for Ferrari and Nico Hülkenberg eighth for Sauber. Daniel Ricciardo in the second Toro Rosso finished the session ninth quickest and Romain Grosjean was tenth for Lotus.
Red Bull Racing are traditionally among the last runners out of the garage in practice but today Webber broke with tradition, heading out just 21 minutes into the session. He beat the Finn’s time by well over a second, resetting the benchmark with a lap of 1:29.088. His tenure at the top of the timesheet was short-lived, however. At the half-hour mark Rosberg appeared, did a single flying lap of 1:28.873 to take top spot, and then retired to the garage.
Little changed for the next 40 minutes, with many runners waiting until the track was theoretically suitable for Intermediates. Initially the green-banded tyres proved a handful through the looping middle sector but gradually, as surface water was thrown off the line, came into their own. Vettel appeared on track with 14 minutes remaining, getting quicker with each lap, taking P5, P2 and then P1 with 1:27.993, nearly a second quicker than Rosberg’s full wet lap. Vettel then improved to 1:27.531 with Webber slotting in right behind, but Rosberg was still getting up to speed. He set his best lap of 1:27.306 in the final minute of the session.
As had been the case in the morning, the session was characterised by a slew of spins, half-spins and trips across the kerbs as drivers struggled for grip, particular during the tricky crossover period when the Inter tyre was a marginal proposition. As had been the case in the morning, everybody managed to avoid doing damage to his car.