Brazil : Sebastian Vettel replied to Mark Webber`s accusations of Red Bull favouritism on Friday by beating his team mate in practice for what could be a title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix.
Vettel kept Webber second on the timing screens both morning and afternoon, a day after the Australian had described himself as an `inconvenient` contender and accused the championship-leading Formula One team of emotionally favouring their young German.
Vettel`s subsequent remark, to German television, that "If Mark needs help then he should take the medical car" hardly improved relations.
However, on another dominant day for the team, both played down the spat with the Australian also nipping paddock speculation at Interlagos that he could walk out at the end of the season.
"It was a good Friday and we got through everything we wanted," said Webber, last year`s winner at the Sao Paulo circuit whose ramshackle facilities regularly serve up one of the best races of the season.
"We`re not too sure what will happen weather-wise (on Saturday) but we`re pretty quick and the car works well in all conditions, so we should be set for a good result."
Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso, who leads Webber in the championship by 11 points and could clinch his third Formula One title if results go his way on Sunday, was third fastest in the afternoon after an engine problem in the morning.
Ferrari, who have been managing the Spaniard`s engines carefully for months after early-season problems, were unconcerned and said that unit had reached the end of its programmed life.
Alonso was 13th fastest in the morning with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa 14th.
"For us, it will be important to stay ahead of the McLarens and the other teams who on this track could be in the mix," declared Alonso.
"By that I mean Renault, Williams and Mercedes. Then, the forecast is for rain tomorrow and anything could happen."
The Spaniard recognised that Red Bull, with Vettel desperate to win after engine failure while leading in South Korea left the young German 25 points behind him with just two races remaining, looked very much the team to beat.
Vettel`s best time of one minute 11.968 seconds was 0.104 quicker than the best effort by Webber. The difference between the two in the first session was nearly half a second.
McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton, third in the championship challenge and 21 points behind Alonso, was third and fourth respectively.
"The car felt good today, I`m getting everything out of it, but I still felt it needs just a little more downforce," said the Briton, who won his 2008 title in Brazil.
"Still, I`m optimistic for qualifying tomorrow, especially if it rains. This year`s car is much better than last year`s car in the wet, so I feel confident that if it rains we should be able to fight for the front row."
Team mate and world champion Jenson Button, the fifth driver still in mathematical contention but 42 points off the pace on his return to the track where he won the title with Brawn last year, was fourth and seventh.
Renault`s Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov spun into the tyre barriers with eight minutes of the morning session remaining while Sauber`s Japanese Kamui Kobayashi also went off at Ferradura with a puncture.