Brazilian Grand Prix 2011: Lewis Hamilton sets pace in practice
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton beats world champion Sebastian Vettel to top the time-sheets in Friday practice at Interlagos
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton followed up victory in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago by topping the time-sheets on the first day of free practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Briton was 0.167s quicker than double world champion Sebastian Vettel with a time of 1m13.392s, with the German’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber third quickest.
“The car felt really good today on both high and low fuel,” said Hamilton. “And degradation on the new option tyre seems pretty acceptable – I was still doing decent times at the end of my run. I think there’s still a bit more to come, but we’re looking strong for the rest of the weekend.
“I also felt quite comfortable with the set-up changes we made going into this afternoon’s session, and our long runs seem to be pretty competitive too. You never know what the Red Bulls are doing, but I’m comfortable that we’re there or thereabouts.”
Webber, who has been outclassed this season by Vettel, had topped the morning session with a time of 1m13.811s, and knows how to win at the Sao Paulo circuit after taking the chequered flag in 2009 as Jenson Button wrapped up the world drivers’ championship. However, the Australian has had to watch Vettel secure two drivers’ titles since then, with his last win coming in Hungary last year.
Button, second in the morning session, was off the pace in the afternoon, and could only manage seventh quickest as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, fourth quickest in the afternoon, and still in contention to finish second in the drivers’ championship if the result goes his way.
Hamilton, sporting a unique helmet design in honour of the late Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna, led for much of the session before briefly being deposed by Michael Schumacher, when the Mercedes driver switched to the soft tyres.
But Hamilton quickly regained top spot when he followed suit, first with a time of 1m13.653s, then the 1m13.392s which kept him ahead of the chasing pack.
“For Brazil this weekend I wanted to create and wear a special helmet utilising Ayrton Senna’s design ““ I asked Ayrton’s sister, Viviane, if I could use it, and she said yes,” Hamilton added.
“It’s my helmet design on the front and Ayrton’s on the back. I used the green lining that Ayrton used on his helmet too ““ I had to order that especially. It’s a very special edition, it’s a real honour to be able to wear it, and hopefully we’ll raise some money for the Senna Foundation too.”
Schumacher showed he can still produce something special in Brazil to take fifth quickest, with a view to upsetting Ferrari in qualifying and the race. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa completed the top six.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Force India duo Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta made up the top 10.
Once again, pole position should be a straight shoot-out between Hamilton and the Red Bulls, as has been the case for much of the season, with the Briton keen to end on a high after a turbulent season which has seen the 2008 world champion show his best and worst sides as a driver.
For Vettel, a 15th pole of the season would give him another place in the record books, surpassing Nigel Mansell’s 14 pole positions achieved in the 1992 season.
Brazilian Grand Prix 2011 – Practice times
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.392 35 laps
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m13.559 + 0.167 41 laps
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m13.587 + 0.195 41 laps
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m13.598 + 0.206 35 laps
5 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m13.723 + 0.331 38 laps
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m13.750 + 0.358 39 laps
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.787 + 0.395 36 laps
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m13.872 + 0.480 42 laps
9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m14.144 + 0.752 41 laps
10 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m14.807 + 1.415 48 laps
11 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m14.856 + 1.464 38 laps
12 Bruno Senna Renault 1m14.931 + 1.539 37 laps
13 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m14.970 + 1.578 32 laps
14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.019 + 1.627 45 laps
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.264 + 1.872 44 laps
16 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.388 + 1.996 41 laps
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m15.679 + 2.287 43 laps
18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m15.903 + 2.511 40 laps
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m16.298 + 2.906 36 laps
20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m16.338 + 2.946 48 laps
21 Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m18.031 + 4.639 39 laps
22 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m18.051 + 4.659 45 laps
23 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m18.367 + 4.975 42 laps
24 Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m18.476 + 5.084 42 laps