Button tops energetic final practice at Interlagos
24 November 2012 – Jenson Button, now running a higher downforce setup, has topped the final practice session ahead of the title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix. As McLaren and Red Bull locked out the top four, the hour remained completely dry as Fernando Alonso finished eighth. Rain is expected later and could affect the last qualifying session of the year.
One word is on the lips of all in the F1 paddock: rain. Any dramatic twist in the conditions could have a massive bearing on the outcome of the championship, with Sebastian Vettel 13 points ahead of Alonso. For now, an overcast morning resulted in the track being some 13 degrees cooler than yesterday afternoon, which came as a pleasing feeling for the drivers. Third practice ran between 11 o’clock and noon.
Timo Glock started by crossing the white line when exiting the pits, which could result in a penalty from the stewards. There was more bad news for Kimi Räikkönen, whose engine expired in a large plume of white smoke because of an oil pressure problem; although this was his race unit, it can be changed without penalty as older powerplants remain. The Finn, who managed just three laps, set no time and found a plastic chair from which to spectate.
Seven kilometres slower on the straights but now finding time in the twisty infield section, thanks to his higher downforce configuration, Button led the way on the quicker Medium tyres. His best effort of 1:13.188 edged out Vettel by less than a tenth of a second and the German would comfortably clinch a third title if he manages that position tomorrow.
Alonso was half a second off the pace and would be on only the fourth row of the grid if he cannot improve this afternoon. He and team-mate Felipe Massa attempted to slipstream each other as they ran with more downforce than most, but this could play into Ferrari’s hands if the weather does take a turn for the worse.
Second home favourite Bruno Senna was 11th, but there was a focussing moment for the Williams driver as he spun and was narrowly avoided by Michael Schumacher while heading up the hill towards the finish line. Now able to push harder thanks to the lower track temperatures – on what is still a scorching day in South America – a number of drivers were seen running off-track. Schumacher suffered a selection of lock-ups and championship leader Vettel ran wide at both the first and fourth corners.
McLaren and Red Bull have proven that they are the teams to beat in fully dry conditions, but the entire F1 community is now bracing itself for a massive thunderstorm; its exact time of arrival is unknown. Incidentally, the close lap times throughout the field - on what is one of the shorter circuits of the campaign - will dramatically punish any mistakes in qualifying.
Qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix starts at 2pm local time (GMT -2) and can also be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report