Silver lining at grey Interlagos as Mercedes finish FP1 first and second.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was the fastest man as the first free practice session as Interlagos was dampened by persistent light rain. Rosberg went into P1 with a time of 1:24.781 early in the session. His time did not face a serious challenge and when the chequered flag fell, he had an advantage of nearly half a second over team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull Racing after a late surge, while Jenson Button was fourth for McLaren. Fifth place went to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber was sixth in the second Red Bull, and Sergio Pérez seventh in the second McLaren. Daniil Kvyat, standing in for Daniel Ricciardo rose to the occasion and recorded the eighth best time for Toro Rosso. In ninth, Heikki Kovalainen was the faster of the Lotus cars and the top ten was rounded out by Sauber’s Nico Hülkenberg.
Jules Bianchi was the first man out of the pitlane onto an already damp track, his Marussia carrying Pirelli’s blue-banded full wet tyres. He was closely followed by Esteban Gutiérrez on the intermediate compound. Inters were the tyres of choice for the majority of the following field, and indeed the tyre of choice for the whole 90 minutes of the session as rain continued to fall, gently but without pause.
After installation laps, Jenson Button was the first driver to set a time. His lap of 1:26.184 came 15 minutes into the session. He and Rosberg traded best times before Rosberg’s second flying lap of the stint ended the competition.
The session was characterised by spins, half-spins and off-track excursions as every driver struggled for grip on the greasy surface – but serious incidents were avoided. Red Bull Racing stayed in the garage for the first half of the session. Vettel eventually emerged carrying aero rakes behind his diffuser. Unlike the rest of the field, he opted to go out on the hard tyre, lapping well off the pace. Later he switched to the experimental 2014 slick compound Pirelli bought to the track in the hope of getting some preparatory running.
Vettel did not set a time, opting to run through the pitlane after each lap. He and Webber eventually went out on the Inter in the last half-hour. While radar had predicted a lull in the rain, in reality it intensified as the end of the session approached. Both Red Bull cars slotted into the top ten but did not threaten the Mercedes.