Nico Rosberg led the way in the opening session of practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix as several drivers struggled to get to grips with Interlagos' new surface.
This weekend Sao Paulo will host the penultimate round of the world championship as Rosberg aims to narrow the gap to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the title race. First practice times are rarely a true indicator of pace for the rest of the weekend, but Rosberg can at least take some confidence from being 0.221s faster than Hamilton.
This year the track has been resurfaced ahead of the weekend and the new asphalt's smooth surface offered very little grip in the opening session. Several drivers got caught out in the middle sector, but Dani Juncadella was the only one to make contact with the barriers.
Juncadella was driving Sergio Perez's Force India during the morning session and lost the rear on the exit of Curva do Laranjihna on his 17th lap. As he went to correct the slide the car straightened up and speared into the barriers with brakes locked. The nose and front suspension took the brunt of the impact and will need work ahead of the second session.
Juncadella wasn't alone in making a mistake at the corner as Kimi Raikkonen lost the rear of his Ferrari on the entry in the final ten minutes of the session. However, Raikkonen managed to control a 180 degree spin and keep the car away from the barriers, only to make another mistake on the entry to Juncao a few laps later.
Max Verstappen pulled off the save of the session when his Toro Rosso got completely sideways at Mergulho and he somehow managed to keep it pointing in the right direction. The slide caught the attention of Jean-Eric Vergne, who handed his car over to Verstappen in FP1, with worried looks breaking into broad smiles across the faces of the Toro Rosso pit wall.
They were also able to smile about the time set by Daniil Kvyat in the sister Toro Rosso, which was enough for third fastest ahead of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Felipe Massa was fifth fastest ahead of Verstappen in sixth and Pastor Maldonado in seventh. Red Bull struggled for pace with Daniel Ricciardo tenth and Sebastian Vettel down in 14th, but are expected to be quicker when the running becomes competitive.
Electrical problems kept both Jenson Button and Esteban Gutierrez in the pits for most of the session and neither set times.