Williams was the big loser in the first phase of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, with both Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima missing the cut at the end of the 20-minute session.

Although both drivers had posted solid initial efforts, they found themselves dumped into the drop zone by improvements elsewhere and had to find better laps with just minutes remaining. Although both bettered their earlier marks, however, neither managed to make a big enough gain to escape the bottom five, with Nakajima winding up 16th and Rosberg 18th.

The Williams pair sandwiched Honda's Jenson Button, who pulled off before making it back to the pits after his final effort had moved him to 16th but no further, with the two Force Indias filling the back row, as expected. Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Sebastien Bourdais had all lingered in the cut-off area, but eventually made it through the phase two.

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The top of the timesheets belonged to Ferrari, but only after Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen had returned to the track to improve on their first two-lap runs. Newer rubber, albeit the harder compound, served to lessen the understeer prevalent in the F2008s, and also allowed Massa and Raikkonen to better Lewis Hamilton's early pace-setting effort.

Fernando Alonso, having has his first attempt thwarted by a turn one spin from Timo Glock, took fourth spot, ahead of the German, who bounced back with a late fifth fastest lap, while Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet Jr, Heikki Kovalainen and the two BMW Saubers filled out the top ten.