Interlagos Practice 1: Hamilton fractionally faster than Red Bull duo

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 November 2012.

Lewis Hamilton fastest in the opening session in Sao Paulo

Nov.23 (GP247) Lewis Hamilton’s intention to leave McLaren on a high got off to the best start possible as the Austin winner powered round the Interlagos circuit faster than anyone in the first free practice session of the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with special helmet livery. Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 November 2012.Sporting a special edition helmet, with ‘Thank you McLaren’ emblazoned on it, the 2008 world champion appeared in the mood to do the business in Sao Paulo. His best time of 1 minute 14.131 seconds  was set in the first half of the session and remained the benchmark until the chequered flag ended the morning’s proceedings.

But there was nothing to separate Hamilton from the next three. Second fastest by a mere 0.009 seconds was world championship leader Sebastian Vettel, ahead of Red Bull teammate Mark Webber who was 0.067 off the top pace, and Jenson Button in the other McLaren 0.086 down on his teammate.

Clearly, out the box, Red Bull and McLaren have an edge at Interlagos and early indications are that they will surely be victory contenders this weekend as they have been for the past several races.

It has to be said though that the session may be somewhat deceptive, as FP1 traditionally tends to be, as Pirelli had a two sets of 2013 tyres for each driver to evaluate. This will have little impact on the way the current tyres work.

Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Brazilian GP practicePirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery explained. “The 2013-spec tyres here are a bit of a hybrid. It is the hard compound but the structure is different, the tyres weigh 1kg more. It is a chance for the teams to gain some data because the cars are not adapted to this product. The information so far has been positive.”

Nevertheless, in the interest of the title showdown, it was good to see both Ferrari drivers next up with championship contender Fernando Alonso and local hero Felipe Massa fifth and sixth respectively, albeit a quarter second down on the top times. Even though this is far better than the two seconds deficit they endured a week ago in Texas, some would point to the short lap time around Interlagos, which makes the gap seem less.

Seventh fastest was Romain Grosjean who last raced in Brazil, back in 2009 as a Renault driver. In FP1 he ended seventh fastest at the wheel of the Lotus. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was a late arrival from the States, struggled with mechanical issue which curtailed his running to 16 laps (most others did twice the amount) and ended up down in 16th on the timing sheets.

Fernando Alonso Ferrari, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 November 2012.Paul di Resta was quickest of the Force India duo in eighth, while teammate Nico Hulkenberg in his farewell race weekend with the Silverstone based team was ninth.

Splitting them, with the eighth best time, was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.

Reserve drivers in action were Valtteri Bottas in place of Bruno Senna in the Williams (14th) and Giedo van der Garde (19th) in Heikko Kovalainen’s Caterham.

Also of note were the number of drivers, other than the above mentioned Hamilton and Hulkenberg, who are on their final weekend’s with their respective teams including:

  • Michael Schumacher with Mercedes;
  • Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi with Sauber;
  • Bruno Senna looking increasingly unlikely to stay on with Williams;
  • Caterham drivers Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen as at least one, if not both, is due to depart;
  • Charles Pic with Marussia and perhaps both HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan as rumours abound in the Sao Paulo paddock that the collapse of the Spanish team is imminent.

Subbed by AJN.

Brazilian Grand Prix Free Parctice 1, Interlagos – Friday, 23 November 2012

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.131 33
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:14.140 0.009 35
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:14.198 0.067 34
4 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.217 0.086 31
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:14.392 0.261 28
6 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.716 0.585 29
7 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:14.719 0.588 33
8 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:14.738 0.607 34
9 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:15.015 0.884 37
10 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:15.050 0.919 32
11 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:15.114 0.983 36
12 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.255 1.124 31
13 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.396 1.265 32
14 19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:15.413 1.282 23
15 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:15.587 1.456 35
16 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:15.701 1.570 16
17 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:16.048 1.917 35
18 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.315 2.184 36
19 20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:16.460 2.329 32
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:16.506 2.375 31
21 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:16.617 2.486 30
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:17.234 3.103 26
23 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:17.678 3.547 15
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:17.895 3.764 13