Rosberg fastest on Friday as red flags blight sessions

Nico Rosberg was fastest in both free practice sessions on Friday at Interlagos with both sessions being affected by red flags.

Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS driver Rosberg led his team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the opening session by 0.221s, with the team once again the class of the field, finishing almost a second faster than the surprise third placed Scuderia Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

The session had to be red-flagged mid-way through after Daniel Juncadella, taking part in the session in place of Sergio Perez, crashed his Sahara Force India machine at turn 8. He was one of a number of drivers to suffer spins as a lack of grip on the newly laid asphalt took some getting used to.

Behind the top three, Fernando Alonso was fourth for Scuderia Ferrari ahead of his former team-mate Felipe Massa of Williams Martini Racing, while Max Verstappen continued his impressive entrance into F1, ending the session sixth in the second Toro Rosso despite an-off at turn one that saw him use the exit road of the support pit lane to re-join the track.

Pastor Maldonado was seventh in the leading Lotus ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who suffered two spins during the session, one at turn six and one at the final corner. McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.

Two drivers failed to set a time during the session, with Jenson Button of McLaren and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber both suffering electrical issues.

Whereas FP1 had one red flag, FP2 saw three stoppages, but it was Rosberg once again that held the advantage over Hamilton at the top of the timing screens.

Rosberg’s best time of 1:12.123s was 0.213s faster than his team-mates time, with Raikkonen finishing third ahead of Ricciardo, while Valtteri Bottas was fifth after missing first practice after Williams gave Felipe Nasr a run in front of his home fans.

Massa was sixth ahead of Alonso, who was responsible for one of the three red flag periods when his Ferrari caught fire, with the Spaniard himself retrieving a fire extinguisher to try and put out the blaze.

Kvyat continued his strong form with the eighth best time ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, while Magnussen ended the session tenth.

As well as Alonso, power unit issues for Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and more problems for Gutierrez resulted in the session being stopped. Sergio Perez was already absent from the session due to Juncadella’s earlier crash.