Hamilton tops tight practice
Lewis Hamilton edged a four-driver scrap involving the McLaren and Red Bull pairings in first practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
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The leading quartet were covered by less than a tenth of a second, an astonishing achievement around the undulating 4.3km Interlagos track, with Sao Paulo serving as a backdrop in the distance.
Come the end of the 90 minutes just 0.009secs split Hamilton from the driver on the brink of becoming only the third in history to secure a third consecutive Formula One world title in Red Bull star Sebastian Vettel.
The duo enjoyed a battle royal in the United States Grand Prix five days ago in Austin where Hamilton came out on top to aid the cause of Vettel's championship rival Fernando Alonso.
Come the conclusion of the 90 minutes Hamilton, in his final race for McLaren before joining Mercedes next season, finished with a time of one minute 14.131secs, with Vettel hot on his heels.
Their team-mates in Mark Webber and Jenson Button were in very close attendance, the Australian 0.067secs adrift and Button 0.086secs down.
As for Ferrari's Alonso, 13 points behind Vettel in the standings, the 31-year-old Spaniard was fifth on the timesheet, a quarter of a second off the pace.
If this is an early indicator of the shape of things to come over the course of the weekend, then fifth on the grid in qualifying tomorrow is going to be the best Alonso can hope for.
Team-mate Felipe Massa, who has rediscovered his form of late, was sixth, half a second behind, followed by Lotus' Romain Grosjean and a more encouraging performance from Force India's Paul di Resta.
With just two points from his past five races, Di Resta has struggled with his car of late, but the Scot found himself just six tenths of a second behind Hamilton.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado, and Di Resta's team-mate Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10, with Mercedes' Michael Schumacher - the seven- times champion in his 308th and last race before he retires for a second time - 11th and just under a second down.
Sauber pairing Sergio Perez, in his final race for the team before filling Hamilton's seat at McLaren, and team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, seemingly out of a job given reserve Esteban Gutierrez will replace him next season, were 12th and 13th.
Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who missed his media duties on Thursday after arriving back late from a short break in Los Angeles, was 1.5secs down in 16th.
Usual suspects Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan occupied the final two places on the timesheet for HRT, who potentially bow out after Sunday's race given their financial difficulties, the duo both just over 3.5secs adrift.
01 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:14.131 33 laps
02 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:14.140 0.009 35 laps
03 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:14.198 0.067 34 laps
04 Jenson Button McLaren 1:14.217 0.086 31 laps
05 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:14.392 0.261 28 laps
06 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.716 0.585 29 laps
07 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:14.719 0.588 33 laps
08 Paul di Resta Force India 1:14.738 0.607 34 laps
09 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:15.015 0.884 37 laps
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:15.050 0.919 32 laps
11 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:15.114 0.983 36 laps
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:15.255 1.124 31 laps
13 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:15.396 1.265 32 laps
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:15.413 1.282 23 laps
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:15.587 1.456 35 laps
16 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:15.701 1.570 16 laps
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:16.048 1.917 35 laps
18 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.315 2.184 36 laps
19 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:16.460 2.329 32 laps
20 Timo Glock Marussia 1:16.506 2.375 31 laps
21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:16.617 2.486 30 laps
22 Charles Pic Marussia 1:17.234 3.103 26 laps
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:17.678 3.547 15 laps
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:17.895 3.764 13 laps