Hamilton completes Friday lock-out in Brazil
23 November 2012 – Lewis Hamilton topped both practice sessions on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. On what is likely to be the only all-dry day of the event, title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso again finished in second and fifth positions although the latter was focusing on the slower, Hard compound tyre.
The final Friday of the season was one of, if not the busiest for teams and drivers alike. In the morning, Pirelli gave all the chance to sample some of its 2013 rubber, as the next opportunity will not be until pre-season testing in February. Prior to this, Sauber and Caterham named Esteban Gutiérrez and Charles Pic as race drivers for next year.
As the cars flooded out of the pits for second practice at two o’clock, the crowd packed into the circuit and samba drums could be heard. In the paddock, the hot topic was the weather, as this season’s title-decider is very likely to be rain-affected. Although Hamilton and McLaren are again demonstrating impressive pace in the dry, all of today’s running could prove academic if the weather changes dramatically in less than 24 hours’ time.
Now on the Medium compound tyre, the softer of the two Slicks available this weekend, Hamilton posted the overall fastest lap time of 1:14.026 – a comfortable three tenths up on Vettel who has been quicker than rival Alonso all day. However it must be noted that the Spaniard was concentrating on the Hard tyre as his afternoon long run took place, leaving Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa – sporting a distinctly red crash helmet for his home weekend, mirroring that of his father’s - to focus on running with the Soft.
Kimi Räikkönen was the slowest of the two Lotus drivers as he aims to defend his third place in the drivers’ standings from Hamilton. The day did not start off comfortably for the Finn, who lost around half of his planned laps from the morning session as the team investigated a problem, after which a coil was eventually changed. Unusually for Interlagos, there were surprisingly few spins, but Pic did pull off the circuit with alternator failure.
In the second McLaren, straight-line speed was the target for Jenson Button as the 2009 World Champion ran a lower downforce setting to team-mate Hamilton; although the former was fastest trough the speed trap, he suffered a loss of grip in the critical middle sector – where Romain Grosjean was particularly quick – and ended up eight tenths down.
In both of today’s sessions, HRT ran a notably shorter programme than usual as both Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan spent much of the three hours in their garage. To the Barcelona driver’s credit, he still finished ahead of both Marussia cars. Heading into Saturday, the big decision for all will be choosing a setup for qualifying; very mixed conditions are expected and this could lead to widespread headaches down the pit lane.
Third and final practice in Brazil starts at 11am local time (GMT -2) on Saturday and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report