Hamilton delivers pole for McLaren in his final qualifying session for the team
24 November, 2012
Nov.24 (GP247) Lewis Hamilton has been adamant that he wants to leave McLaren on a high and he is doing the business at the Brazilian Grand Prix as he stormed around the Interlagos circuit to claim top spot on the grid for the race.
It is proving to be a swansong weekend for Hamilton who moves to Mercedes for 2013. The 2008 world champion has never won in Brazil, and along with his teammate, reliability permitting, he looks a fair bet for top honours come Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton’s time of 1 minute 12. 4588 seconds was 0.055 seconds up on Buttons best.
It has been an emotional few days for Hamilton, who has dealt with it in the best way possible this far. He said after qualifying, “It has been a good weekend so far. I am grateful to be able to put the car on the front row and to have had my last qualifying [session] with McLaren as a one-two, it is a fantastic job by the team and I hope we can turn it into something positive tomorrow.”
“I think the weather will be tricky tomorrow, it will make it more of a lottery. We’ve put ourselves in a really good position to do the best job we can do. We need to work together as a team. We’ll make sure we do absolutely everything to get the job done. What a great feeling it is. What a great weekend so far and I hope we can push tomorrow. It is great to be one-two with Jenson Button. I am expecting a difficult race. I am very proud and happy [that] I have pole,” added Hamilton who will be targeting his 22nd grand prix win, all with McLaren, in Brazil.
A 1-2 in the race for McLaren on race day will ensure they leap-frog Ferrari to take second place in the constructors’ championship, which would mean a healthy dollop of extra prize cash for the honour of finishing second to newly crowned champions Red Bull.
Button mused, “It is a great day for us. It is Lewis’s last pole for the team. It is big for us and important [that] we are on the front row together. It shows we are strong as a team and it is a pity that will change, but things change. It is tough to drive here in the wet, you get a lot of rivers on the hill. Lewis and I will have some fun because there are two people with more pressure than us. We both want to win, that is the way it is. We are not fighting for the championship so we will fight for the win. It is the best qualifying we have had here so I am looking forward to it.”
Best of the rest, at the end of Q3, was last year’s winner Mark Webber in the Red Bull, who took the battle to McLaren and ended up only 0.068 slower than Button. The Australian, in turn, was 0.179 seconds up on his title contending teammate Sebastian Vettel – very little separating the pace setting quartet at the sharp end of proceedings.
When asked in the post-qualifying press conference how he would help teammate Vettel in his title quest, Webber was forthright, “We focus on ourselves tomorrow, and I will do the cleanest race I can. I will be focused 100% on my own cockpit an do the best race as possible.”
For Vettel the man he has to cover is Fernando Alonso and he did that quite comfortably as the Spaniard could only manage the eighth best time, but a ten place grid penalty for Pastor Maldonado promotes the Ferrari to seventh on the grid.
Vettel spoke afterwards, “Q3 was not 100% perfect. It was not quick enough and I know I could have done a little better. I am keen to go back and look at the data and see where I was not quick enough. All in all we are in good shape and we have been competitive and we will see what we can do tomorrow.”
Alonso has it all to do and is definitely on the back foot for the title deciding showdown. In dry conditions the Red Bulls appear to have the edge and with 13 points advantage Vettel has a good amount of leeway, even if conditions (namely the expected rain) turn in favour of Ferrari.
As is his custom, Alonso refused to see the downside when he spoke to media after the session, “Ninth in USA and eighth here so more or less as I expected. I will try to achieve the podiums which we achieved in Abu Dhabi and Austin … from those positions. No big changes in our race. F1 is dominated by aerodynamics. We ran with maximum downforce in dry and same in the wet so big changes today, no gamble. It is minimum changes.”
He added, “It’s going to be tough tomorrow but everything is still possible. We’ve seen many times this year a race better than qualifying.”
Rising to the occasion on home soil was Felipe Massa, who has had the upper hand this weekend in the Maranello camp, out qualifying his team mate with fifth place on the timing sheets as he did in Texas a week earlier.
“I feel very happy. It was a great performance. With how quick McLaren and Red Bull were it was impossible to do better than I did. Now we must concentrate on the race, I will try everything I can tomorrow. I don’t know the weather but everyone says it will be wet. We know Interlagos and that anything can happen. The only thing I need to do is concentrate on my own race in front of my own people. I hope I can do a good job tomorrow in front of my people,” said Massa.
The final qualifying session of the season started with about half the track wet and slippery from a rain shower that struck Interlagos, with drivers who ventured out in the first ten minutes of Q1 struggling for grip. Intermediates were not up for the job, thus it was slicks on a very fine line between traction and slithering off.
Perhaps it was the conditions, perhaps not, but drama struck in Q1 when Romain Grosjean tried to squeeze his Lotus between Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT and the Armco barrier at the fast right hand sweep where the entry to the pitlane starts, where everyone has the pedal to the metal.
De la Rosa was unsighted as the Lotus clipped the back end of the HRT, clearly Grosjean chose the wrong option in place where no one overtakes.
The Spanish veteran gave his version of the skirmish, “Not much I can say really, I was driving on the only dry line on the track. I was keeping the four wheels on the dry line and then suddenly I felt someone hit me on the rear left tyre. I don’t understand how someone can overtake there.”
Grosjean, who can be blisteringly quick but continues to tarnish his reputation with incidents such as these, explained, “Not much to say unfortunately. I was behind Pedro for the whole lap, he had blue flags. I went to overtake him and I don’t think he saw me, I braked as much as I could but we made contact. In those colder conditions it was difficult to get the tyres up to temperature for the final lap.”
After three relatively subdued free practice sessions where he worked with his Williams team on optimising setup for qualifying and the race, Maldonado emerged to claim the sixth fastest time after another impressive qualifying performance.
But it all came to nil a few hours later he was penalised and dropped ten grid spots for missing a call to the weigh bridge and thus receiving his third stewards reprimand of the season.
His team mate Bruno Senna, was second fastest in Q1 but failed to make it beyond Q2 for the 19th time in 20 attempts. He was 12th fastest.
Also impressing was 2010 pole winner Nico Hulkenberg who again got the best out of his Force India with the seventh best time in his last qualifying outing for the Silverstone based team. Paul di Resta, did not make it into Q3 and will start 11th.
Ninth fastest was Kimi Raikkonen, who did well to recover from engine failure a couple of hours earlier during FP3, but in truth the Enstone boys have been missing a trick or two since the Iceman scored his popular victory in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.
Nico Rosberg rounded out the top ten in his Mercedes, while his retiring teammate Michael Schumacher failed to make it beyond Q2 in his final qualifying and will start his last grand prix from 13th on the grid.
Although McLaren have stolen the limelight thus far, and have set the scene for what could be a 1-2, the real deal is the battle for the biggest prize in motorsport – the 2012 FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Championship title – between Vettel and Alonso.
The momentum in Brazil, and probably since Singapore, has swung the way of the German in the blue car, but the Spaniard in the red car is giving it his best shot despite the odds and when the chequered flag drops it will be one of the two who will have become F1 world champion for a third time.
Red Bull’s Vettel is 13 points ahead of Alonso and these are the permutations:
- Vettel need finish only fourth to be champion even if the Ferrari driver wins.
- Vettel can be champion before the race is finished if Alonso crashes out or retires at any point.
- Vettel has won five races so far this season to Alonso’s three, which means that a tie on points will hand the title to the German on race wins.
- Alonso must score at least 14 points if he is to be champion, which means he has to finish on the podium even if Vettel draws a blank.
- Vettel Wins if he finishes in top four.
- Vettel will be champion if he finishes seventh or higher and Alonso does not win.
- Ninth place will do for Vettel if Alonso is no higher than third.
- Alonso must finish on the podium to have a chance.
Subbed by AJN.
Brazilian Grand Prix Qualifying, Interlagos – 24 November 2012
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:16.180||1:13.667||1:12.581||22|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:15.644||1:13.209||1:12.760||19|
|7||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:15.536||1:13.704||1:13.206|
|11||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:15.901||1:14.121|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:19.699|
|Q1 107% Time||1:20.330|
Note: Maldonado dropped 10 grid spots after missing a call to the weigh bridge and thus receiving his third stewards reprimand of the season
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- Webber leaves Formula 1 respected and proud after amazing journey
- Tears, anger, uncertainty as long and hard 2013 Formula 1 season closes in Brazil
- Hamilton: With hindsight perhaps I should have just let him past
- Kovalainen: I was anticipating that it would be easier to come back and race competitively
- Massa: Unbelievable, unacceptable, they didn’t do the right thing, I’m disappointed
- Ferrari: We have ended a difficult season with our heads held high