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Rosberg outshines Hamilton in Brazil

Nico Rosberg made a bright start to his bid to end Lewis Hamilton’s recent supremacy when he completed a rare Friday ‘double’ by topping both free practice sessions for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

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On a sweltering day at the sprawling and demanding Interlagos circuit, the 29-year-old German made the most of the few opportunities to deliver fast and clear laps between three red-flag interruptions.

He ended up clocking a fastest lap in one minute and 12.123 seconds to emerge fastest by 0.213 seconds ahead of the championship-leading Briton for the second time in a day.

Hamilton leads the championship standings with a 24-point lead ahead of Rosberg with two races remaining, including the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where double points will be awarded.

“It was a pretty good day,” said an upbeat Rosberg.

“I had a lot of understeer to start with because of the new asphalt surface on the track and we had to deal with that.”

Hamilton also said he had a “good day” as the air temperature soared past 30 degrees and the track temperatures beyond 50.

“It was all good, but I just didn’t get a chance to hook up a complete lap,” said Hamilton, referring to his relative lack of outright pace compared to Rosberg.

“I was told it was the hottest track temperature ever recorded here,” said Rosberg. “That’s because of the heat but also because it is a newly-laid surface.”

Hamilton is seeking his sixth win in succession and 11th of the season in Sunday’s race, but Rosberg is bidding to end that momentum to set up a dramatic showdown in the season finale.

Hamilton, however, appears to have the Brazilian supporters on his side after being given a warm reception on arrival and handed a mock Brazilian passport and football shirt by a television station.

Local fans said they see that Hamilton drives with his heart and they also like his open admiration for their own legend Ayrton Senna.

“I really feel over the years I’ve seen a lot of growth in my support here in Brazil,” Hamilton said.

Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari was third fastest ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas and his Williams teammate and local hero Felipe Massa.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who was seventh in the second Ferrari, had to leap from his car during the session when he had an engine failure that ended in flames.

He pulled up at a fire post but there were no fire-fighters on duty and he had to use an extinguisher himself.

Russian Daniil Kvyat was eighth for Toro Rosso ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Kevin Magnussen in the leading McLaren.

Jenson Button was 16th in the second McLaren while the prospective 18-car grid was reduced to 17 when Spanish test driver Daniel Juncadella crashed Mexican Sergio Perez’s Force India car during morning free practice.

Perez had to sit out the afternoon session which was equally disjointed with three separate red-flag interventions.

These came when Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso stopped on track, Alonso’s Ferrari suffered its engine failure and Esteban Gutierrez pulled up in his Sauber.

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