Red Bull Racing is not in the habit of topping early weekend sessions at grands prix, but Mark Webber did just that as he posted the fastest time of opening practice at the Brazilian round in Sao Paulo.
The Australian took his turn in P1 after team-mate Sebastian Vettel and McLaren colleagues Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had all topped the charts, and remained there when the chequered flag fell, despite Button getting to within 0.014secs of the benchmark time. Indeed, the other McLaren could even have toppled Webber in the closing moments but, having lapped 0.15secs slower than Webber, Hamilton aborted his final effort and remained third overall.
Webber's mark of 1min 13.811secs also proved beyond the reach of team-mate Vettel, who ended the 90-minute session in fourth spot and a couple of tenths adrift, but the leading quartet was comfortably ahead of fifth-placed Felipe Massa, who had Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso in close company. The Spaniard was among the last to venture out on track, but slotted immediately into sixth spot, and remained six-tenths faster than next man, Michael Schumacher. The German was the first driver over a second off the pace, as seven-tenths covered the top half-dozen, even though Alonso again stopped with suspected engine trouble towards to the end of the session.
Seven-time world champion Schumacher was only marginally quicker than countryman Nico Hulkenberg, who again staked his claim to a seat at Force India by lapping just 0.016secs slower than the Mercedes, while team-mate Paul di Resta was not far behind in ninth place, the two Force Indias sandwiched by Nico Rosberg's Silver Arrow.
Jaime Alguersuari was eleventh fastest, just ahead of the first of four unfamiliar faces in the field for the session, as Romain Grosjean claimed twelfth spot on his second outing of the season with Lotus Renault. The Frenchman narrowly out-paced local favourite Rubens Barrichello, who finished ahead of both Saubers as well as Williams' team-mate Pastor Maldonado, but did not see the chequered flag as he stopped on pit-road entry with suspected clutch problems.. The second Toro Rosso, driven by countryman Jean-Eric Vergne was 18th fastest.
The usual battle at the back again went the way of Team Lotus Heikki Kovalainen, but stand-in team-mate Luiz Razia did a good job to lap a second off the Finn's pace. Razia's effort also put into context the gulf between Lotus and both Marussia Virgin and HRT as he finished ahead of their two car efforts and 20th overall. There was also a new face in the HRT camp, with Jan Charouz replacing Tonio Liuzzi for the session, but the Czech hopeful could not beat team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and had to settle for propping up the timesheet in 24th spot.