The German clocked a fastest lap of 1:12.385 seconds at the 4.309-kilometres Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, almost half a second up on team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Disappointing for Ferrari, they are undergoing a most serious challenge to Mercedes’ supremacy once again as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished third and fourth, the Italian duo are nearly a second slower than Rosberg — a second slow will make huge distance in this short track during the race, Daniel Ricciardo set fifth fastest, who is running the new-specification Renault engine.
“It is Friday so tomorrow is a new day,” Vettel told Sky Sports F1 of his qualifying chances.
“It was supposed to rain today, but it didn’t. They say it will rain tomorrow and then get cold on Sunday, but let’s wait and see.”
Valtteri Bottas led Williams’ charge to finish sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg, while Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten.
McLaren confirmed to Sky Sports F1 that it was a hardware problem with the Honda engine and it would be sent back to the factory for examination.
The Woking based outfit hits again another reliability issue when Fernando Alonso’s Honda engine failed in a puff of smoke after 10 laps during the evening practice session, team-mate Jenson Button managed 16th fastest with 34 laps.