Lewis Hamilton redressed the McLaren-Red Bull balance by claiming the fastest time in second practice at Interlagos, and duly emerged as a narrow pacesetter on the opening day of the Brazilian F1 finale.
The Briton slightly improved on his morning time to move to the head of the combined timesheets with a 1min 13.392secs effort that left him just over a tenth of a second quicker than world champion Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton had been third fastest in the opening 90-minute outing, with Vettel fourth, but the pair moved above early day pacesetter Mark Webber as a single second covered the top nine runners.
Webber remained a threat to top spot, ending the day just a couple of hundredths slower than his German team-mate, but the second McLaren of Jenson Button slipped down the order, swapping second in the morning for seventh in the afternoon, despite improving on his earlier mark. The Briton dropped behind both Ferraris, with Fernando Alonso taking fourth and Felipe Massa sixth, sandwiching Mercedes' Michael Schumacher. The German had topped the times earlier in the session, but had to make do with fifth spot, and a time of 1min 13.723secs, just over three-tenths off Hamilton's pace.
Behind Button, the second Silver Arrow of Nico Rosberg took eighth, with Adrian Sutil the final driver to get within a second of Hamilton as he pushed the lead Force India into ninth, despite having missed the morning session in favour of possible 2012 replacement Nico Hulkenberg. Current team-mate Paul di Resta rounded out the top ten, 1.415secs off Hamilton.
Vitaly Petrov also defied missing the morning outing, putting his Lotus Renault into eleventh, one spot ahead of team-mate Bruno Senna. Sauber filled the next two places, with Sergio Perez getting the better of Kamui Kobayashi despite spinning late on and having to abandon his car out on the circuit. The two-by-two formation continued with the Toro Rossos in 15th and 16th, ahead of the Williams entry in 17th and 18th. Rubens Barrichello was the first, and only, driver not to improve on his morning effort, but still finished above team-mate Pastor Maldonado on the combined timesheet.
Jarno Trulli returned from handing his Lotus over to Luiz Razia to claim division three honours ahead of team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, while Jerome d'Ambrosio again advertised his potential to possible 2012 suitors after out-pacing Marussia Virgin team-mate Timo Glock and the HRT duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Tonio Liuzzi.
Of those to only contest the morning session, Hulkenberg's time put him 15th on the combined timesheet, ahead of both Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, while Jean-Eric Vergne, who had sat in for the Swiss, was 21st, three spots behind fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean. Razia and Jan Charouz was naturally further back, with the Czech replacement filling the 29th and last position after his maiden run with HRT.