F1 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles Vettel for pole

PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 November 2012 | UPDATED: 20:19 25 November 2012

Lewis Hamilton at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

HOCH ZWEI

FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton battles Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel for pole position in qualifying for the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paulo having gone quickest in the opening two practice sessions.

Brazilian Grand Prix facts

* Race distance: 71 laps (190.067 miles/305.909km)

* Start time: 14.00 (local)/16.00 GMT

* Circuit length: 2.677 miles/4.309km

* 2011 winner: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 71 laps in 1hr32m17.464s (198.876km/h)

* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m38.481s (215.695km/h)

* Lap record: Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) 1m11.473s (217.038km/h)

Continuing his impressive form from Austin, the 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ace from Hertfordshire set the pace in free practice at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, on Friday.

Ahead of his final F1 race for the McLaren team, the United States Grand Prix winner clocked a best lap of 1m 14.131s in first practice.

A red-hot Hamilton went even quicker in FP2 with a 1m 14.026s to top the day one timesheets ahead of FIA world championship leader Vettel.

The McLaren man and the German Red Bull driver are expected to battle it out for front row grid spots in Brazil in today’s qualifying.

Speaking after Friday’s practice opening sessions, Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “It’s been a positive first day – I hope we can maintain our form or even progress it tomorrow [Saturday].

“We’re certainly looking strong, but this place can be so tough on tyres that it’s hard to make any accurate predictions at this stage.

“The track and ambient temperatures were so high today [Friday] that it felt almost as though I was sliding around the track with the tyres melting!

“Having said that, our long runs are usually tougher on the tyres [than shorter runs], but our long runs still looked quite good today.”

Lewis Hamilton factfile

* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)

* GPs: 109

* Wins: 21

* Poles: 25

* FLs: 11

* 2012 points: 190 (4th)

* Brazil record: 2011: Q4, R-; 2010: Q4, R4; 2009: Q17, R3; 2008: Q4, R5; 2007: Q2, R7.

Hamilton, who won the 2008 F1 world title in Brazil in dramatic fashion, added: “It’s great to have such a positive final Friday with the team – it’s been one of the best Fridays we’ve had for a long, long time, in fact.

“I’m savouring every moment of this weekend, and I’ll be taking photographs of my engineers and mechanics through each day.

“The car feels really good – thanks, guys – and it would be the perfect Saturday if I could take pole.”

McLaren teammate Jenson Button was fourth fastest in FP1 behind Hamilton and the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber.

"The car feels really good – thanks, guys – and it would be the perfect Saturday if I could take pole."

McLaren F1 driver Lewis Hamilton

He could only manage eighth in FP2 but exlained: “We were running a lower downforce set-up package to Lewis this afternoon.

“It was quite an interesting comparison, but, in the hot weather, lower downforce makes things trickier because the car slides more, which hurts the tyres.

“Still, it was a useful test, because we needed to see how well the smaller rear wing works. Obviously, it operates in a different way [from the higher-downforce set-up package], so we wanted to be able to understand that.

“Using the smaller rear wing, our long-run pace was surprisingly good. However, our single-lap pace wasn’t as strong – probably because we weren’t able to use DRS as fully as we could with the bigger wing.”

Lewis Hamilton on track in 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix practice [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]Lewis Hamilton on track in 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix practice [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Team prinicipal Martin Whitmarsh was pleased with McLaren’s progress in Brazil.

“Topping the timesheets in both today’s sessions was a nice fillip for the whole team, and it gives us great motivation to carry that momentum forward with us for the rest of the weekend,” said Whitmarsh.

“Indeed, our car appears to be competitive on both low- and high-fuel loads, and, as ever, I’m sure our hard-working engineers will once again mine the data this evening, further to refine our package ahead of FP3 and qualifying tomorrow.

“For Lewis, it must have been an emotional final Friday with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. But, as ever, he performed faultlessly.”

He added: “Now, though, our focus narrows towards qualifying: we expect strong competition from our key rivals, but we’re in a good position to fight for pole, and victory, this weekend.”

Qualifying for the 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil starts at 4pm UK time.

The 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, which will decide whether Vettel or Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso wins the world title, starts at 4pm on Sunday.

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