Williams were the surprise of Friday practice, leading the challenge to Mercedes of which their rivals believe are genuine at what will be Felipe Massa’s last Brazilian Grand Prix.
Finishing the day in third and fourth positions and ahead of Red Bull and Ferrari who have been ahead of the British team all season, came on the back of extensive simulation work back at the factory. It was only a large flat spot for Felipe Massa which held the times back slightly, which saw him in fourth place in the second practice session.
Talking after practice, the team’s Rob Smedley said: “We are pleasantly surprised at how good our pace was today. We’ve done a lot of set-up and development work in the simulator, and then subsequently on the track here, and the drivers are happy with the results. We knew we had to take a slightly different approach for a track like this, with the low-speed corners, so that’s what we’ve been concentrating on.
“Both the low and high fuel runs looked good, we could run the soft tyre easily as long as we need to, and it was good on the medium tyre as well. There was a lot of degradation on the high fuel, but the degradation was high today so the aim is to have relatively less than other people. Felipe suffered a flat spot on his long run that knocked his pace back a little bit, but overall we’re in good shape.”
Wet weather expected this weekend could hamper the team though, who have traditionally struggled in tricky conditions with their low drag configuration. Massa himself was optimistic of a good weekend though: “It’s definitely been a good day. It’s always nice to see your name near the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m really looking for that competitiveness tomorrow and especially on Sunday. This is a track that I love and the people here really support me, which gives me so much more confidence. I hope we can stay up there this weekend. It won’t be easy but I will definitely try!”