2013 Brazilian GP Practice Two: Nico Rosberg shows Mercedes' wet-weather form again
German denies Red Bull pair as Interlagos weather worsens
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 23/11/13 6:17pm
While intermittent levels of rain had generally required drivers to run on intermediate tyres in Practice One, and the leaden skies did briefly brighten up in the lunchtime break between sessions, conditions in Sao Paulo on Friday afternoon worsened as P2 approached.
It was five minutes into the session before the first car, Marussia's Max Chilton, decided to brave the clearly treacherous on full wets but the Briton headed straight back to the pits within a lap. Heikki Kovalainen put the first laptime on the board a few minutes later, but his initial 1:31.658s on the blue-marked grooved rubber was five seconds slower than he managed on intermediates in the morning.
Unlike the rate of the persistent rain, it was a steady stream of cars that followed the pair out onto the increasingly soaked circuit - albeit rather gingerly - for brief run-outs with Rosberg setting the slow benchmark pace of 1:28.873 from Webber and Romain Grosjean.
Such were the treacherous conditions, that Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and the Ferraris opted to sit out the worst of the running completely and didn't leave the sanctuary of the pitlane until the final 20 minutes when the rain had eased marginally, but sufficiently, for the drivers to switch back to inters.
After a tedious opening hour or so or running, it therefore proved something of an action-packed finish as drivers attempted to complete some more useful running with Vettel and morning pacesetter Rosberg trading fastest times on the improving track into the closing minutes.
And, for just the second time since the British GP in June, Vettel didn't end up at the head of the P2 order as Rosberg clocked a lap superior to the World Champion by two tenths of a second of 1:27.306.
Still, Red Bull were hardly struggling on the slippery track as underlined by Mark Webber's third-fastest effort in the sister RB9.
Another man to run strongly in the closing minutes was Lotus stand-in Heikki Kovalainen, the Finn putting his E21 at the end of his opening day of driving the car in the wet.
Lewis Hamilton finished 0.8s back on team-mate Rosberg in fifth, the Briton spinning in the wet late on for the second successive session, with Jean-Eric Vergne sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber).
Having kept a watching brief for the majority of the session, Fernando Alonso was the first driver to emerge on the intermediates and although initially among the front runners, the Spaniard eventually slipped to 11th having used the best of his tyres up earlier.
Although forecasts have suggested Friday would witness the worst of the weekend weather at Interlagos, the threat of rain continues to loom large over both Qualifying and Race Day, thus offering the possibility of some late-season unpredictability amid Vettel's attempt at a record-equalling ninth-straight win.
"Obviously you can tell that people didn't want to run a lot this afternoon simply because they want to save their tyres because we only have one set for free to use today," Vettel told Sky Sports News.
"So it's a bit of a shame for the people that went out in the grandstands but unfortunately it's like this. But come Sunday or Saturday you need to have the tyres and you need to make the right calls still. It was good to get a bit of a baseline in these conditions but you have to be sharp tomorrow and Sunday."