EAGER TO WIN: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set the fastest laps in both Friday practice sessions ahead of the 2016 Brazilian GP. Image: AP / Joshua Paul
Sao Paulo - Lewis Hamilton completed a perfect opening day when he outpaced championship leading Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg in Friday's closely-competed second free practice for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion, who was fastest in the morning's opening session, stayed on top with a best lap in 1min12.271 seconds, an advantage of just 0.030 seconds ahead of Rosberg.
On a hot day with clouds threatening, there was little to separate the two title contenders, but Rosberg did enough to suggest that even if he does not take the title with a decisive victory in Sunday's race he will retain the initiative.
2nd place good enough
Rosberg needs to complete a hat-trick of Interlagos triumphs to claim his maiden drivers' championship, but knows that with a 19-point lead and just two races remaining two second places will be enough.
Hamilton is seeking his first win at the Brazilian event, the only race on the calendar other than the new European contest held in Baku that he has not won.
He is bidding for a third successive victory, after winning in Texas and Mexico.
Unexpectedly, the Williams team, powered by Mercedes engines, were the second strongest outfit on Friday with Valtteri Bottas third ahead of his team-mate, retirement-bound local hero Felipe Massa.
This pushed the Red Bulls of Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen down to fifth and sixth ahead of the two Ferraris of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Force India ahead of the two McLaren Hondas of Jenson Button and two-time champion Fernando Alonso.
Bad luck for Alonso
Alonso's running ended early due to an electronics problem and in an episode that reprised his frustrations of 2015, when he ended up sitting in a deck-chair to watch the action, he amused himself by sitting in a fold-up canvas chair and operating a television camera.
Raikkonen was called to a stewards inquiry after the session after cutting across Carlos Sainz's Toro Rosso at the pit-entry during the session.
The session was run in air temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius and with a track temperature of 49 degrees.
The early stages were initially topped by Ricciardo and then Rosberg before Hamilton went fastest. He was replaced by Ricciardo and then both Massa and Bottas went quickest before the Briton clocked his best lap of the afternoon.