languished at the bottom of the timesheets for much of the Friday afternoon practice session at Interlagos before vaulting fastest on a new tyre, light fuel run just ahead of the chequered flag. The Renault star recorded a best lap of 1:12.314s, eclipsing Mark Webber’s
morning best by a tenth of a second, while Sebastien Buemi was on top form for Toro Rosso Ferrari with the second fastest time.
The penultimate round of the championship in Brazil is all about the championship battle, and while the three championship contenders were all firmly in the top ten, Alonso and Buemi enjoy overnight bragging rights as they both lapped the 4.309km circuit a tenth of a second clear of Rubens Barrichello
in the leading Brawn Mercedes.
Barrichello was another driver to make late gains on fresh super-soft option rubber to move third fastest, 0.145s off the ultimate pace, while team-mate and championship rival Jenson Button
was fifth. Both Brawn drivers showed good pace although both were still fine-tuning the BGP 001 late in the 90-minute session.
As Brawn look set to claim the constructors’ championship on Sunday, rivals Red Bull Renault also appear strong in Brazil. Mark Webber, now out of championship contention, was fourth fastest with Suzuka race winner Sebastian Vettel seventh.
McLaren admitted in the build up to the race weekend that Toyota still remains a threat and this was underlined in the second practice session with Jarno Trulli
recording the sixth fastest time and splitting the Red Bull drivers. With three-tenths of a second covering the fastest seven runners, the final picture ahead of qualifying is far from set.
Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were eighth and 14th respectively for Williams with Adrian Sutil running well again in his Force India to set the ninth best time.
Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top ten in the leading McLaren - something of a surprise as KERS had been expected to be a real advantage at this circuit.
Romain Grosjean made a late gain to set the 11th best time in the second Renault ahead of Robert Kubica in the leading BMW Sauber. Kamui Kobayashi is proving no slouch behind the wheel of the second Toyota and was an impressive 13th best, just three-tenths off the pace of team-mate Trulli.
Towards the back, Nick Heidfeld
was 15th in the second BMW Sauber ahead of Tonio Liuzzi in the second Force India. Heikki Kovalainen was just 17th in he second McLaren. Ferrari really struggled for pace with Kimi Raikkonen
18th and Giancarlo Fisichella
20th separated by rookie Jaime Alguersuari. Fisichella’s session was cut short when he stalled his F60 whilst trying to perform a practice start at the end of the pitlane but while he ended the day slowest of all, less than a second covers the entire field.
Light rain again made tyre evaluations more complicated than the teams would have wished for, and while Alonso set the Friday pace, most expect Red Bull and Brawn Mercedes to be battling for pole position when it really counts on Saturday afternoon.