Hamilton on pole, Vettel fourth and Alonso seventh

Hamilton on pole, Vettel fourth and Alonso seventh

24 November 2012 – McLaren have locked out the front row for the Brazilian Grand Prix, ending the 2012 F1 season as they began in Melbourne. Both championship contenders were out-qualified by their team-mates, with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso fourth and eighth. Rain remains a firm possibility for Sunday’s final race of the campaign.

On the run-up to this 20th and final race weekend of the year, rain has been the hot topic and many thought qualifying would be a washout. Ultimately, Q1 was affected by a few sprinkles but both the second and third phases were completely dry. This allowed McLaren to take full advantage, having topped all three practice sessions across Friday and earlier today.

Perhaps the biggest upset of the day came at the earliest possible point, as Romain Grosjean suffered his first Q1 elimination of the year; oddly enough, this was only the second for Lotus as a team and the first had been for Kimi Räikkönen at Round 1. Today, Grosjean lost his front wing after Pedro de la Rosa – not seeing the Frenchman in his mirror – moved over as the pair passed the pit lane entry. The Spaniard ends up at the back of the grid, having picked up a puncture and broken DRS, while his adversary was left highly annoyed.

There were no major surprises in Q2, but Michael Schumacher ended his last Formula 1 qualifying session early and in 14th position. Two places ahead, Bruno Senna threatened the top ten at his home race but eventually dropped back. Worrying for Ferrari, Alonso and Felipe Massa were just ninth and tenth as the latter squeezed in at the last moment.

Saving his best run until the last, Hamilton stormed to his first Interlagos pole with a best lap time of 1:12.458, thus equalling McLaren stalwart Mika Häkkinen for 26 pole positions on his final weekend with the Woking team. With Button just half a tenth slower, the outfit moves one ahead of Red Bull for a quartet of front row lock-outs this season. Mark Webber and Vettel fill the second row slots, with Vettel having made a mistake on his penultimate lap before suggesting that more was also possible on the final tour.

Running more downforce than most and having almost certainly gambled with a wet setup for Sunday, Alonso managed either place and is behind Massa once again; the Brazilian will start one position behind Vettel and will no doubt attack the German at the start of the race. If rain does fall, Alonso’s bet may pay off but finishing fourth or higher still guarantees Vettel with the title. Alonso must finish on the podium to stand any chance. Behind him on the grid will be Räikkönen – recovering from little running in practice and an engine failure this morning – and Nico Rosberg, masterly dragging the Mercedes into the top ten.

Sunday’s race will mark the first time that two drivers have headed into a championship finale with each fighting for a third title. Whether the victor proves to be Vettel or Alonso, he will steal Ayrton Senna’s record as the youngest triple Champion in the history of F1.


Post-qualifying development:
Alonso promoted as Maldonado is penalised


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Vettel will pick up the title under the following circumstances:
- Finishing in the top four
- Finishing fifth, sixth or seventh if Alonso doesn’t win
- Finishing eighth or ninth if Alonso is third or lower
- Finishing tenth or non-scoring if Alonso is off the podium

Alonso is the new three-time World Champion if this happens:
- Winning with Vettel fifth or lower
- Finishing second with Vettel eighth or lower
- Finishing third with Vettel tenth or lower
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The title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012 begins at 2pm local time (GMT -2) on Sunday and can be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report

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