Nico Rosberg hoped for a rainy weekend after splashing through spray and standing water on Friday to put Mercedes on top of both practice sessions for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
Limbering up for what could be a battle of the Germans today, Rosberg kept Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in second place on the timesheets.
Rosberg was quickest in the morning with a time of 1 minute, 24.781 seconds, set early on before conditions became trickier, and again fastest in the afternoon with a lap of 1:27.306.
Vettel, chasing his ninth win in a row and 13th of the season, was 0.225 of a second slower in the afternoon.
“It felt good and it was a good day in the wet,” Rosberg said. “It looked like a good pace so for me it can stay wet this weekend. I think I’ve got a good shot at being right at the front in qualifying.”
More rain was expected yesterday for final practice and qualifying, although conditions at Interlagos can change suddenly.
Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton had been second quickest before lunch, but unusually for a driver who excels in the wet, struggled in the afternoon at a circuit where he won his world title in 2008.
“Looking back at my career, in the rain was when I could really make the difference, but in this car there is no hope for me,” the Briton said gloomily.
Vettel and Australian teammate Mark Webber completed the top three in the second session.
The German can equal compatriot Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in a season, as well as Italian Alberto Ascari’s 60-year-old record of nine victories in a row if he triumphs today.
Vettel already holds the record for eight successive wins in a single season.
Webber, preparing for his final Formula One race with both world titles already won by his team and Vettel, suffered another of the KERS failures that have plagued his recent career and was also keeping plenty of tires in reserve.
Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen, filling in at Lotus for compatriot Kimi Raikkonen, was fourth fastest in the afternoon, ahead of Hamilton.
The times were largely meaningless, with the weather triggering plenty of slides, spins and off-track excursions.
With the championships wrapped up last month, the main focus for his rivals this weekend is the battle for second place between Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus, as well as various farewells.
Mercedes are 15 points ahead of Ferrari, with Lotus a further 18 behind.