Hamilton fastest as title-deciding weekend begins
23 November 2012 – Lewis Hamilton set the pace in a warm and dry first practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Using a prototype Pirelli tyre ahead of the 2013 season, the McLaren driver led the way at Interlagos as title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso finished second and fifth for Red Bull and Ferrari, respectively.
This was not an ordinary Friday morning session. Not only does the championship hang in the balance for the blue and red teams, but the experimental tyre compound allowed all teams a chance to garner critical data for next year’s cars, as the next testing will not take place until February and just one month before the Australian Grand Prix.
It was an incident-free 90 minutes, with the exception of spins for Felipe Massa and Timo Glock. Hamilton, on the 2013 tyre which was indicated by orange markings, went quickest on his best effort of 1:14.131 - edging out Vettel by just nine thousandths of a second. 2009 and 2011 winner Mark Webber was third as Jenson Button and Alonso completed the top five; incidentally, the Spaniard was in no rush to start his session, as rubber was laid down on-track by the other drivers.
Although the São Paulo track is not ideally suited to testing - not least because of its anti-clockwise nature and height above sea level, which can mean engines lose up to 60 horsepower - Mercedes took full advantage of trialling new parts; Nico Rosberg remained on the new tyres for the majority of the session, with Michael Schumacher improving to 11th as the chequered flag flew. The team has abandoned its coandă exhaust solution for this weekend, at the end of which seven-time World Champion Schumacher will hang up his helmet for the second time after 306 Grand Prix starts.
HRT limited their running in a somewhat incognito fashion, as Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan each completed around half the laps to their rivals; when questioned by the GPUpdate.net, a spokesperson explained that this had been ‘the plan’. The same could not be said for Kimi Räikkönen and his lack of running, which is most likely to be have been because of a broken exhaust or the loss of a cylinder in the 2.4-litre, V8 Renault engine. The Finn spent two lengthy stints in the pits and managed a total of just 16 laps.
Second practice starts at 2pm local time (GMT -2) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report