Formula 1 News

Hamilton fastest in opening practice

The track feud between the Briton and Vettel continues as the difference in time was of 0.009 today's first session at Interlagos. Webber and Button within a tenth too.
Friday, November 23, 2012

SAO PAULO, Nov 23, 2012 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton topped the times for McLaren in Friday's opening free practice session for this weekend's title showdown Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

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The 27-year-old Briton, making his 110th and final appearance for McLaren before leaving for Mercedes next year, clocked a best time of one minute and 14.131sec to outpace nearest rival and defending drivers world champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.

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Vettel's only remaining title rival, capable of stopping him becoming at 25 years the youngest triple champion in Formula One history, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, was down in fifth place.

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Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber was third quickest ahead of Hamilton's McLaren partner and fellow Briton Jenson Button. The top four drivers were very closely matched and were separated by just 0.086 seconds from Hamilton, who won last weekend's United States Grand Prix ahead of Vettel.

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Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate local hero Brazilian Felipe Massa, chasing his third win on home soil, were fifth and sixth ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Briton Paul Di Resta of Force India, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams and German Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India.

On a near perfect day at the majestic, sweeping Interlagos circuit, set in a natural bowl nestling in the hillside in the suburbs of Sao Paulo, the air temperature was 22 degrees Celsius and the track temperature 32 degrees.

This meant that the drivers had to work hard with their tyres in the conditions as they prepared for Sunday's 71-laps race, some of them also battling their emotions as the season draws to a thrilling conclusion.

Vettel has a 13-points lead ahead of the race and has only to finish in the top four to end Alonso's hopes, even if the Spaniard wins. But with rain forecast over the weekend, much remained open to speculation.

Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in his final race before retiring, was down in 11th place for Mercedes with the 43-year-old's team-mate and fellow-German Nico Rosberg in 18th. Finn Kimi Raikkonen, winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix earlier this month, was 16th for Lotus.

Hamilton, who reportedly burst into tears during an interview with BBC television on Thursday when he was reflecting on his life with the McLaren team, raced with a new design on his helmet including a slogan that read: 'Thank you McLaren'.

Below the times for the session:

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:14.131 33
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:14.140 0.009 35
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:14.198 0.067 34
4 3 Jenson Button McLaren 1:14.217 0.086 31
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:14.392 0.261 28
6 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.716 0.585 29
7 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:14.719 0.588 33
8 11 Paul di Resta Force India 1:14.738 0.607 34
9 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:15.015 0.884 37
10 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:15.050 0.919 32
11 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:15.114 0.983 36
12 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:15.255 1.124 31
13 15 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:15.396 1.265 32
14 19 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:15.413 1.282 23
15 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:15.587 1.456 35
16 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:15.701 1.570 16
17 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:16.048 1.917 35
18 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.315 2.184 36
19 20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:16.460 2.329 32
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia 1:16.506 2.375 31
21 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:16.617 2.486 30
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia 1:17.234 3.103 26
23 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:17.678 3.547 15
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:17.895 3.764 13

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