Ferrari drew first blood as the battle for the Brazilian Grand Prix got underway at Interlagos in first free practice, with Kimi Raikkonen pipping team-mate Felipe Massa to the top of the timesheets as the rain fell down on S?o Paolo.

The two scarlet machines left it late, however, only rising to the head of the standings towards the end of the 90-minute opening salvo, with home hero Massa laying down the gauntlet before Raikkonen quite literally blasted him out of the water with a lap time almost half a second quicker with just ten minutes remaining.

Neither McLaren driver bothered to venture out much, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton struggling on his initial laps around the Aut?dromo Jos? Carlos Pace en route to fifth position at the close, and team-mate Fernando Alonso electing to complete only a perfunctory installation lap.

BMW-Sauber stars Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica both did likewise, as did Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, but the Italian's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was on fine form as he splashed his way around to the third-fastest time on his first Interlagos outing.

Nico Rosberg ultimately wound up an impressive fourth, with long-time pace-setter Ralf Schumacher - set to begin his final race for Toyota this weekend - sixth ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel, the young German rookie once again impressing in adverse conditions despite a late spin.

Mark Webber for Red Bull Racing and Schumacher's Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli set identical times in eighth and ninth respectively, with Vitantonio Liuzzi in the second STR machine rounding out the top ten, seemingly confirming the Red Bull junior squad's recent upturn in performance.

Fans' favourite Rubens Barrichello and Honda team-mate Jenson Button sat just outside the top ten, ahead of RBR ace David Coulthard, Takuma Sato for Super Aguri, Spyker's Adrian Sutil, Williams new boy Kazuki Nakajima - making it three Japanese drivers in the field for the first time in Formula 1 history- Anthony Davidson and Sakon Yamamoto.

To see the practice times in full, click here



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