Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton handed Mercedes a 1-2 in a rain-hit first practice session for Formula 1’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
A late surge lifted Sebastian Vettel to third ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. The Red Bull duo had spent much of the session in the garage or on single-lap data runs, but both improved in the final 20 minutes.
Conditions largely dictated the order, with the first half hour proving the optimal time to run before rain returned and times consequently dropped significantly. Rosberg epitomized that trend, setting an early 1m24.781s benchmark that would remain unbeaten for the remainder of the 90 minutes. Hamilton moved into second moments later, just over four tenths of a second down on his teammate.
Both men had moments even as they set their fastest times, however: Rosberg went too deep into the Senna S immediately after going top for the first time, while Hamilton was the session’s first spinner when he lost the rear of his Mercedes through the Descida do Lago.
Button also set his best time early on, but behind him Alonso bucked the session’s overall pattern when he surged into fourth at the halfway mark, just as the rain began to worsen. Red Bull’s duo, meanwhile, had yet to set any times, with Webber ensconced in the garage and Vettel electing to run cautious data-gathering laps on the hard slick compound.
At that point times were around two seconds per lap slower than the early running and the top order looked settled, but the session swung 20 minutes from the end when the rain abated. Vettel and Webber were the chief movers: the Australian, competing in his final grand prix, slotted into fifth on his second run, but was then demoted when Vettel moved into third 10 minutes from the flag.
McLaren’s departing Sergio Perez was seventh ahead of Toro Rosso’s 2014 signing Daniil Kvyat, standing in for Daniel Ricciardo for first practice.
Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen and Sauber’s in-the-spotlight Nico Hulkenberg were next up in ninth and 10th respectively.
Felipe Massa ended the first session of his Ferrari swansong in 11th, fractions ahead of Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean.
The conditions meant none of the teams were able to sample Pirelli’s 2014 prototype slick tire, with Vettel’s data runs on the hard compound the only slick running of the session.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.781s 14 2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m25.230s +0.449s 13 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m25.387s +0.606s 17 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.391s +0.610s 25 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.593s +0.812s 13 6. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.797s +1.016s 17 7. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.946s +1.165s 15 8. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.064s +1.283s 17 9. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m26.133s +1.352s 31 10. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.232s +1.451s 17 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m26.248s +1.467s 15 12. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.326s +1.545s 28 13. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m26.570s +1.789s 28 14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.593s +1.812s 22 15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m27.115s +2.334s 25 16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m27.269s +2.488s 23 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m27.358s +2.577s 23 18. James Calado Force India-Mercedes 1m27.436s +2.655s 9 19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m28.107s +3.326s 18 20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m28.199s +3.418s 17 21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.004s +5.223s 24 22. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1m32.646s +7.865s 19