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Hamilton Heads record McLaren Front Row As title rivals struggle
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Posted By:   |  24 Nov 2012   |  8:22 pm GMT  |  161 comments

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his seventh pole position of the season and the last for McLaren, at the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix, heading a McLaren front row with Mark Webber in third.

It was McLaren’s 62nd front row lock out, which establishes a new F1 record.

After his well judged win in Austin last weekend, this was Hamilton once again on form, highlighting what might have been had the McLaren been as reliable as it has been fast this season.

The title battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso meanwhile, will see the two start three places apart, with Vettel fourth and Alonso eighth in qualifying, but promoted to seventh after a penalty for Pastor Maldonado. As the pressure mounted ahead of the showdown, both contenders were out qualified by the team mates.

The Venezuelan missed a compulsory weight check and was given a third reprimand, which triggers an automatic 10 place grid drop.

Vettel needs only to finish fourth in tomorrow’s race, while Alonso needs to finish on the podium and hope that Vettel doesn’t score points.

The weather forecast for tomorrow shows rain, but there are many different views on when it might fall and how hard.

It looked from the outset of qualifying that Alonso would struggle for pace relative to the top four and he was once again out qualified by team mate Felipe Massa. With Alonso moving to the clean side of the track in 7th, there is no question of another Ferrari gearbox penalty to boost Alonso’s chances.

After topping the times in Q2 it seemed that Vettel would give himself the perfect buffer heading in to tomorrow, but he looked edgy and a mistake on his first run in the final phase of qualifying left the German with a lot to do and he could not regain his momentum.

Ahead, Hamilton set the initial benchmark in Q3 only to be usurped by Webber as the Brit began his final flying lap. And in his final race for McLaren, Hamilton put in a fantastic lap to take the 26th pole of his career by 5/100ths of a second. It is McLaren’s fourth front row lock-out of 2012.

It has been a dominant weekend for McLaren thus far, topping every session apart from Q2. If they are able to finish the race in their qualifying positions then McLaren will claim second in the Constructor’s Championship ahead of Ferrari; with a boost of an extra $10 million to the Woking team.

In a session that began under difficult conditions, caused by a short spell of rain in the half an hour leading up to qualifying, times dropped considerably from Q1 to the final shoot-out with the leading cars finding over two seconds and eventually lapping faster than in any other session over the weekend. The wet area was predominantly through the final sector of the lap, making acceleration out of Juncao and along the bending home straight very difficult on slick tyres. But this moisture had disappeared by the time Q2 began.


Behind the top four Felipe Massa continued his recent run of strong form, taking fifth on the grid and 3/10ths faster than Alonso. Then came equally strong performances from Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg, the two splitting the Ferrari’s before Maldonado’s penalty. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg gave his Force India team something to smile about in his last GP for them, before heading to Sauber in 2013.

The top ten is completed by Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg, both getting the better of their respective team mates but unable to challenge any further up the grid. The sister Lotus of Romain Grosjean dropped out of qualifying at the earliest stage after colliding with a HRT and losing his front wing; the incident was investigated but no action was taken. It is only the third time this year that Grosjean has failed to find himself in the final phase of qualifying, and a strong drive in to the points tomorrow will cap off a roller coaster season for the Frenchman.

For Michael Schumacher, in his final Grand Prix, it was a disappointing qualifying session as he finds himself in 14th position for the 306th race of his illustrious career. Mercedes are just twelve points ahead of Sauber in the race for fifth in the Constructor’s Championship and with a high probability of rain tomorrow both Rosberg and Schumacher will need to keep an eye on Sergio Perez in conditions that the out-going Sauber driver relishes.

[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows}

*Read all the latest on Maldonado’s penalty and Grosjean escaping section at http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-website-news/

BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, Interlagos, Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m12.458s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m12.513s + 0.055
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m12.581s + 0.123
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m12.760s + 0.302
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m12.987s + 0.529
6. Pastor Maldonado* Williams 1m13.174s + 0.716
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m13.206s + 0.748
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m13.253s + 0.795
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m13.298s + 0.840
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m13.489s + 1.031

11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m14.121s + 0.912
12. Bruno Senna Williams 1m14.219s + 1.010
13. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m14.234s + 1.025
14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.334s + 1.125
15. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m14.380s + 1.171
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m14.574s + 1.365
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m14.619s + 1.410

18. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m16.967s + 1.892
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m17.073s + 1.998
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m17.086s + 2.011
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m17.508s + 2.433
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m18.104s + 3.029
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m19.576s + 4.501
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m19.699s + 4.624

* 10 place grid drop, will start 16th on the grid.

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1

This year should’ve been Lewis’s.

He has drive faultlessly and superbly.

Robbed of several victories and decent points through no fault of his own.

Lets hope Mercedes have a rule bending secret for next year.

2

Fantastic quali from Lewis! The perfect race result would be a win for Lewis with Massa on the podium. I have been impressed with Massa in the last few races and would love for him to finish the season on a high note. With regards to the WDC, it’s Vettel’s to lose although Alonso the magician will drive the wheels of that Ferrari. I love Alonso’s grit and determination and would love nothing more than for him to win the WDC but benefiting from others misfortune might be asking too much. I just can’t see Vettel having a DNF or Alonso finishing ahead of him.

3

Massa will use a RB8 number 1 as his brakes for the first corner, which will leave alonso 4th on the first lap. Then it will be upto webber to try and keep him of the podium he would need.

4

Going to be a great race (I hope)esp. if it rains

Start will be crucial as always, I think especially for Alonso as he needs to make sure that he doesn’t get too far behind

Then it will be who switches tyres at the right time if it rains, or mechanical issues if it doesn’t

I think it will also be very interesting to see if Vettel makes any mistakes under pressure as well

5

Anyone else share my opinion that Stewart’s decision to call in Maldonado, considering he was not fast at that point and it was a crucial time with not much time left in a session, is questionable? And on top of that they give him a penalty.

6

It’s a random check. Everyone goes through it at some point!

7

Hope this last race of the season proves to be a classic in history. I definitely hope it will rain throughout the race today to make it more enjoyable to watch, but at the same time I hope there won’t be any DNFs (especially for Vettel, Alonso and Schumi) so that the title goes to the best driver, and Schumi can drives strongly to get a good ending to his career!!

8

Not knowing what will happen with the weather is great. Anything can happen at the first turn. Will be an interesting script which is very normal at Interlagos.

All in all, a very good season and finally it’s down to the wire today. Couldn’t have asked for more as a fan.

No DNF for Vettel, and Alonso charging up to the front which has been happening ever so often. The final score to settle for them.

I dont know why, but I’m hoping for Massa to win this race. But Lewis will be in control and having fun.

Murray Walker, “OH My God!, I have never seen that before….and the world champion is……”

9

I have a simple question. How did Maldonado miss the weighing? How is it done: did he simply drive past the FIA scrutineers trying to divert him into the weighing garage? And does the team have any responsibility here, I mean, are the team informed the car has to be weight-checked and so they should tell the driver, or aren’t they?

10

There’s an on board shot where the red light is clearly visible

He was a bit fired up and missed it

11

Say, is it just me or is there a slight correlation between Tennis and F1?

Here is why:

i) You see both of these sports are currently going through a golden era with 3 top athletes at the top of their game

ii) Nadal is just one year younger than Lewis, whilst Vettel is the same age with Djokovic likewise Federer is the same age as Alonso.

iii) Federer came onto the scene when he won his Grand Slam in 2003, same year Alonso won his first race plus both were World Number 1s in 2005/2006

iv) Lewis & Nadal were World Number 1s in 2008 and these two tend to win Grand Slams and races the same weekend.

v) Novak and Sebastian were both World Number 1s in 2011 and both dominated those seasons.

vi) Earlier in the 2012 season Federer was back to holding the World Number 1 ranking just like Alonso was leading the championship only for Novak to come through towards the end of the season and reclaim it.

vii) Lewis’ 2012 season was ruined by reliability, the equivalent of injuries in tennis that made Nadal withdraw from the rest of the tennis season.

Etc…

12

Good stuff! I hope “Nadal” isn’t hamstrung too much by a really poor choice of tennis racket next year…

13

RBR issues

Short lap + back markers

Top speed for overtakes

High ambient & KERS/alternator

Others gambling on drying track

Felipe the start demon

14

An interesting prelude to the race but as I’ve been saying 2 races ago it is over and Vettel will be champion. I think the race will be bone dry and therefore nowhere near as exciting as people hope. I predict the excitement or what little there will be won’t be from the championship but just the battle for winning this race.

One thing I can say for sure is that Ferrari don’t deserve a WDC this year. Alonso does but Ferrari does not. Given last year they started preparing for this year early, they’ve gone from making big predictions at the start of every year to pathetic excuses after. I like Domenicali but I really hope he is put to task and di montezemolo more so.

15

Not to mention Pat Fry…!

16

Hi James,

I have an alternative constructors points system where the final result is still in doubt. In this system a win is worth 25 points, 2nd 24points, 3rd 23points all the way through to the final finisher. If the car is forced to retire you get 0 points.

Applied to 2012 so far.

1. Red Bull 725

2. Ferrari 704

3. McLaren 629

4. Lotus 629

5. Force India 560

6. Sauber 482

7. Mercedes 471

8. Williams 467

9. STR 467

10. Caterham 320

11. Marussia 258

12. HRT 156

In this system every team that has a car that finishes will gain points towards the constructors.

17

While I would perhaps give some extra points to the race winner/ podium finishers, I think the idea of all finishing cars getting points is a good one. It stops teams like marussia overtaking caterham in the constructors simply because one race happened to feature a large amount of retirements.

Having said that, the system now gives midfield teams an added incentive to try and score any points- maybe adopt craig’s system until (if) the slower teams become more competitive!

18

That’s like the NASCAR point system, w/o the win bonus. I think the current points system has worked well. It’s screwed up the historical stats, but you can make adjustments for that.

19

Imagine the taxes they would have to pay the FIA next season!

20

Don’t give them ideas, James. 🙂

21

How much money are the FIA getting from this new deal? Is it enough for them to (theoretically of course, we know it’ll never happen) ‘sponsor’ the lowest ranking team. Rather than having to find pay drivers, the FIA could sponsor a back marker team and provide an automatic promotion system from GP2 – the winner of the championship automatically gets a drive.

Of course, GP2 not being an actual FIA sport could be a hurdle (one of many) to any system like this being put in place.

22

Goodluck to the best man.

For those hoping Massa will take out Vettel, I hope you realise that Webber can take out Alonso too.

Its a long shot, but both Ferarri and Red Bull can bend the rules and act funny until both are disqualified from the championship, making the WDC suddenly a battle between Lewis and Kimi.

23

Cant wait for tomorrow. So nervous. I hope it rains. I am sure Massa will overtake Vettel and Webber at the start. Have to see how aggressive Vettel will be at the start to defend. Massa makes up a lot of positions at the start. However, it will be very disappointing if the race starts behind a safety car due to rain. That will rob us of the excitement. I don’t think Massa will be used to take out Vettel as its being suggested by some here. That will be very obvious and similar to Nelson Jr crashing in Singapore. However, if massa overtakes Vettel and Alonso is chasing him, Vettel can be really aggressive in his defense but Alonso cant take any risks.

24

I guess Seb’s face after p4 was due to +35 Massa, +28 Alonso’s places gained on starts!? What the heck face that was from the leader and driver of the best car around? I don’t get it but hey I support Ferrari, come on Ferrari!

25

Let’s enjoy the race, and I hope the best driver will win WDC.

“As long as Fernando has a steering wheel in his hand he is always there”

Mark Webber

So, GO NANDO, GO !!!

26
Tornillo Amarillo

I imagine Vettel DNF and Alonso P4…

27

Hope it will start raining during the race tomorrow, otherwise I suspect we will see a boring start behind the safety car.

Alonso for WDC and Vettel DNF (by Massa).

28
Bring Back Murray

“Alonso must win the WDC” – “Do you underdstand that message”

29

Fernando and Sebastian both looked a bit out of sorts in the few close up shots from today’s tv coverage and Fernando certainly isn’t driving with the same certaintity as before. I guess Massa’s improved speed isn’t helping his confidence either and it’s all about confidence.

Will be really interesting tomorrow that’s for sure. I thought all along Vettel was home and dry, but now after not winning in Austin and a patchy Q3 today, it’s just might fall Alonso’s way. Shades of 2010 all over.

30

James, we’ve seen numerous silly collisions this season that could have been avoided if one car realized another was there; whether it’s Karthikeyan and Vettel in the race, de la Rosa and Grosjean in qualifying, or one of any number of similar incidents. Is there any possibility of F1 adopting a similar system to Indycar, with spotters around the track alerting drivers when another car is in their blindspot and attempting to overtake? That collision today was really frustrating to view, because it was so avoidable but didn’t appear to be the fault of any one driver.

31

It all happens to quickly on an F1 track.

32

People always complain about the size of wing mirrors. We all understand that they’re that small for aerodynamic benefit.

Am I missing something, or isn’t the solution for the FIA to regulate a minimum size for the mirrors? There must be a reason this isn’t possible? Because it sounds too simple…

33

Alonso is running with less camber to maximize wet tyre grip and life. Look at the photos.

34

Most pundits on BBC F1 & SKY re expecting/backing Alonso to win WDC but my feeling is the outcome will be similar as US Elections 2012.

35

Nico in 10th, maybe the car is not THAT bad. Lewis has got to be worth .300-.400 of a second. Maybe it wont be that bad for Hamilton next year.

36

It will be interesting to watch the Lewis -Nico battle. If Lewins wins by 4 tenths, that would be very impressive.

37

I’m as big a Lewis fan as they come but no way is he finding 0.3 – 0.4 second over Rosberg. Unless ofcourse Rosberg turns out to be no where as good as we thought. This would mean Uncle Schummy had really lost a lot a pace.

More likely, it would be like his battle with Jense. Faster but not enough to shake him off or dominate as Rosberg will have a lot of his own days.

That’s Maccas problem. Having equal drivers is fine but when they are with milli seconds of each other albeit consistently and the other teams are on par or have better pace with just as good drivers you shackle yourself.

You win races but no titles. If you are going to be equal you need to choose who to back a lot earlier so you can focus on them – I think.

Anyway,each team to its own.

May the best man win today.

38

Is it possible they fueled Massa light, not even enough to finish the race but be quicker to cause some chaos up front? Just saying, there not afraid to throw Massa under the bus to help team Alonso.

39

They qualify on empty anyway…

40

You mean ‘will fuel’, right? They don’t qualify on race fuel these days.

That would be very risky strategy. What it, for example, Massa was holing 10th place and circumstances had led Vettel to be in p11 with Alonso in 3rd? Massa running out of fuel would give Vettel the championship.

41

Are the weights of the cars published after Q3 so we could tell if someone ”'(Massa) only had half a tank full?

PS Goodbye Michael – thanks for the memories

42

Well, considering cars have run low-fuel qualifying since 2010, I highly doubt this would be the case…

43

Any chance a repeat of 2008 last lap. Would be brilliant. F1 at its very best. I think there will be twists and turns with both guys being the champion at different stages during the race.

[mod] Those guys doubting Fernando havnt got a clue what there talking about. We are in a golden era in terms of drivers, just be happy.

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