Hamilton fastest in practice for Brazilian GP
Updated: November 25, 2011, 14:48
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SAO PAULO(AP) McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton had the fastest time in practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday, outpacing the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Hamilton had a time of 1 minute, 13.392 seconds at the 4.3-kilometer (2.6-mile) Interlagos track. Vettel was second with a time of 1:13.559 ahead of Webber with 1:13.587.
"The car was pretty good today. I'm quite comfortable with the setup changes I made going into the session,'' Hamilton said. "You never know what the Red Bulls are doing, but we are in a similar pace as the Ferraris. I think the Red Bulls will still be quicker in race pace.''
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in 1:13.598.
With the title already decided, Sunday's Brazilian GP features the fight for second place, with Webber, Alonso and Jenson Button still with a chance to finish runner-up.
Webber had been the fastest in the first practice session in South America's biggest city, followed by Button and Hamilton.
A mechanical failure forced Alonso to stop with about five minutes to go in the morning session and he was forced to change his engine. He was not penalized for the change, however, because he switched to a used engine instead of a new one, which would have incurred a grid penalty for Sunday's race.
The two-time world champion, who had clocked the sixth fastest time in the morning, appeared to struggle with the car in the afternoon and went off the track a couple of times.
"We saw that our car is good for fifth or sixth place only,'' Alonso said. "It wouldn't be bad if we could get some rain over the weekend. I don't know if it would make it better or worse for us, but I wouldn't mind it.''
There is a chance of rain, especially during Sunday's race in Sao Paulo.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, a four-time winner in Brazil, was fifth in his Mercedes with a time of 1:13.723. Crowd favorite Felipe Massa, in his 100th race with Ferrari, was sixth fastest on a hot day in Interlagos with 1:13.750.
Button, who was only seventh fastest in the afternoon session, has a 10-point advantage over Alonso and a comfortable 18-point lead over Webber in the fight for second place. The British driver will secure the runner-up spot just by finishing ahead of Alonso and Webber.
Vettel won the title at the Japanese GP with four races to spare in the season. He has dominated the season with 11 victories and 14 pole positions.
He will make a little more history if he can claim pole again on Saturday in Brazil, allowing him to surpass Nigel Mansell for the record in a single season. Vettel took pole for the 14th time in Abu Dhabi to equal Mansell.
Hamilton won the race in Abu Dhabi after Vettel retired on the first lap because of a punctured tire that damaged his car.
It will be the first time in seven years that there isn't a chance the title will be decided in Brazil. The season had its champion crowned in Interlagos for five straight years until 2010, when Vettel clinched the trophy in Abu Dhabi, which ended the season last year.
The constructors' championship also has been decided in favor of Red Bull, with McLaren set to finish second and Ferrari at least third no matter what happens in Sunday's race.
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