For the second Formula One race weekend in a row, the Red Bull team who are currently at the top in the Constructors' Standings, have taken an early lead at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix's Friday practice day.
The tables turned to favour Sebastian Vettel on this occasion, who took the stop spot in practice; unlike in South Korea where his Australian team mate, Mark Webber was streets ahead. The German driver pipped Webber in both sessions, but especially picked up speed in second practice, with a final lap time of 1:11.968s.
Vettel seemed pleased with the car's performance in today's practice, but recognizes that tomorrow's qualifying is where the final position for the race counts.
"I think it was pretty good today-of course it's not the most important thing to be at the top of the timing list today, it's more important tomorrow and Sunday - but it's a good start," said the German. "The car feels alright, I'm not one hundred percent happy with the balance and think we can improve it, but it's looking okay. I think it's likely to rain tomorrow".
Fernando Alonso who leads the fight for the drivers' title, ended the second session in third position. Before the first part of the day came to a close, the Ferrari driver was faced with a few technical difficulties. Although the team were due to change the old engine for a new one, between the end of that session and the start of the second, the engine blew sooner than they anticipated. Once into the afternoon practice, the Spaniard started a fresh with a new engine, and followed closely behind his Championship rivals.
However, his team mate Felipe Massa, who will take to the track for his home race on Sunday, did not experience quite as good a day as he would have liked. The Brazilian driver in the sister Ferrari, suffered with hydraulic failure, due to a suspected gearbox or drive shaft problem. Nevertheless, the start to his special weekend did not go too well, and he finished a little further down than the other title contenders, and ended up in fifth position.
Massa explained the problems he had in practice, "I ran wide at Turn two and went over the kerb quite heavily: I immediately noticed that the clutch had disengaged and I was unable to select any gear to try and get back to the pits. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before: it was only when the car was brought back to the garage that we discovered it was an electrical problem...Overall, I feel we can be competitive this weekend. Sure, the Red Bulls are very strong, as are the McLarens. It is meant to rain tomorrow and, on a wet track, anything could happen."
Lewis Hamilton made steady progress throughout the day, and put himself in fourth position, just behind his three closest rivals battling for the Drivers' Championship. The 2008 World Champion's McLaren team mate, and fellow Brit, Jenson Button, did not quite manage to beat the Renault of Robert Kubica, and finished in seventh position. The Defending World Champion was struggling to find grip at the rear of his car, which prevented him from possibly going one place better. However, Kubica had luck on his side, allowing him to secure the higher position of the two drivers.
The Pole's Renault team mate, Vitaly Petrov had a rather disastrous start to his race weekend in Brazil, as he had a heavy crash at Turn seven, where his car made a swift exit from the track and into some barriers. This meant the Russian could not really improve his position later in the day, and he ended up in 15th place, but he did get in front of the Force India driver, Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Nick Heidfeld seems to be impressing with his performance for the Sauber team, as he continues to drive in Pedro de la Rosa's former seat. The German finished in a top ten position, to take eighth place, and he got ahead of both Mercedes drivers. The in team battle there saw youth win and Nico Rosberg landed himself a ninth place finish, leaving his team mate Michael Schumacher in tenth position. During second practice, Schumacher showed that even with his winning track record, even a seven time champion can still slip up. The German had a coming together with the Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari as they were tackling Turn 1 on the Interlagos circuit. Nonetheless, both drivers had a lucky escape and avoided any damage to their cars. Alguersuari ended the session quite a bit further down the field though, in 18th position, with his Swiss team mate, Sebastian Buemi ahead in 17th place.
Not for the first time this season, during practice, qualifying or even a race, Schumacher has battled with his former Ferrari team mate, Rubens Barrichello. It was the same story when practice came to an end this afternoon. Unfortunately, like the other Brazilian drivers in Formula One, Barrichello did not set out in the best way for his home race, as he finished in 11th position. Despite this he did still complete the session one place better than the other Sauber, of Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver seems to have been quite fearless; with some of the driving styles he has demonstrated this season. Although he managed to avoid what could have been, a very nasty accident in practice today. He lost control of his car at the point on the track known as Ferra Dura, which was the same place Petrov left the circuit. Kobayashi was able to complete the day and finished in 12th place.
Barrichello also had one over on his Williams team mate, Nico Hulkenberg. It appeared to be a mixed session of results among the German drivers in the field. However, Hulkenberg was not quite as successful, in securing a higher finish as some of the others. He was not able to match his team mate either, but did end the day in 13th position, to put himself ahead of the other Force India of Adrian Sutil, who finished alongside his fellow countryman in 14th place. After recent speculation that he is likely to stay with Force India seat next year, sadly Sutil could not follow up the news with as quite a positive outcome in final practice, as he demonstrated in the morning run.
"Today was a reasonable start to the weekend with no major problems and some solid running in both sessions. We ran through our usual programme of long and shorter runs and tyre work and got lots of information to work on tonight," commented Sutil.
On the other hand, Sutil did pull out the ninth fastest time in first practice, but his lap times were not quite as fast in the later session. By the end of the morning session, Sutil set a lap time of 1:13.918, and in second practice his final lap was a bit off the pace with a time of 1:13.741. With the results from today's practice, Sutil will still have a fair bit of work ahead tomorrow. He still faces the five-place grid penalty from the race in South Korea. The stewards issued the punishment after he collided with Kobayashi, and that was because he was aware his car was having brake problems; thus the incident could have been avoided. Buemi also faces the same fate wherever he qualifies for the race, after he too caused an avoidable incident. He collided with Timo Glock during the race, which the stewards were less than impressed at.
After having the best debut season of the new teams in Formula One, Lotus continued to impress throughout the day in practice. Once again they beat their rivals to the higher positions in the field. Of the two drivers, it was Jarno Trulli who managed to secure the better place, as he ended the afternoon in 19th position. His Finnish team mate, Heikki Kovalainen was trailing in 20th place.
Lucas Di Grassi followed next in 21st place, after the reserve driver for Virgin Racing, Jerome D'Ambrosio put in a few laps in his place during first practice. Glock and his Brazilian team mate, were split by the Hispania Racing drivers, for the last few places in the final practice. Bruno Senna, who joins the other Brazilian contingents in the field, had a good result as he got in front of his Austrian team mate, Christian Klien, who lined up next in 23rd position. Glock had to settle for 24th place at the back of the field, as he failed to catch the two drivers in the rival team and his own team mate.
With the possibility that the Drivers' Championship could be decided this weekend, all of the top five contenders will be gunning for that pole position grid slot. However, there is the chance that rain could change the conditions tomorrow, which the drivers will have to face, as they battle against their rivals for the highest position they can get.