McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton carried on where he left off last week in Texas, on top of the pile after first practice here at Interlagos on Nov 23 morning. But the times were incredibly close as a second covered the fastest 11 cars.
It was a slightly curious session as most drivers set their fastest times on Pirelli’s prototype 2013 tyres and then switched back to the 2012 hard tyre, so after a certain point there were few significant improvements.
Hamilton was fastest for most of the session, ending up on 1m 14.131s, just 0.009s ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s 1m 14.140s for Red Bull. Mark Webber was right behind his Red Bull team mate with 1m 14.198s, 0.067s shy of Hamilton, and Jenson Button was fourth in the second McLaren on 1m 14.217s, just 0.086s down on his team mate.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso spent a lot of the session comparing front wings, but used the prototype tyres late on to improve his time to 1m 14.392s, but not his fifth position. Felipe Massa backed him in sixth with 1m 14.716s in the second Ferrari, just ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus in 1m 14.719s. Paul di Resta was also right with them in his Force India, on 1m 14.738s.
Pastor Maldonado improved to 1m 15.015s for Williams to displace Nico Hulkenberg in the other Force India, the German lapping in 1m 15.050s. Michael Schumacher was another late improver, to 1m 15.114s for Mercedes, and he slotted in ahead of Kamui Kobayashi (1m 15.255s) who finally learned this morning for sure that Esteban Gutierrez will replace him at Sauber in 2013.
Sergio Perez spent a lot of time with locked front wheels in the other Sauber, on his way to 1m 15.396s for 13th, while Valtteri Bottas took Bruno Senna’s Williams to 14th on 1m 15.413s. Daniel Ricciardo was 15th for Toro Rosso on 1m 15.587s, ahead of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen who managed 1m 15.701s after losing a lot of running time as Renault’s engineers tried to cure a rough-sounding engine. Jean-Eric Vergne was 17th on 1m 16.048s in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of Nico Rosberg on 1m 16.315s in the second Mercedes.
Giedo van der Garde again did a great Friday morning job for Caterham with 1m 16.460s which put him ahead of spinner Timo Glock’s Marussia on 1m 16.506s, team mate Vitaly Petrov on 1m 16.617s, and 2013 Caterham pilot Charles Pic on 1m 17.234s. At the back, Pedro de la Rosa lapped his HRT in 1m 17.678s to Narain Karthikeyan’s 1m 17.895s.
There are more helmet permutations this weekend; Schumacher’s bore the legend: ‘Life is about passions. Thank you for sharing mine.’ Hamilton’s said: ‘Thank you McLaren.’ And Massa sported a new red and blue paint job, inspired by his father.