McLaren Tops Qualifying in Brazil
By: James Musoke on November 24, 2012 | 12:00 P.M. EST
Lewis Hamilton claimed his seventh pole of the season on Saturday. (Photo: Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton’s final weekend as a McLaren driver started in superb fashion, as he and his teammate Jenson Button ensured that they will have the final say in the championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, by locking out the front row of the grid for the final race in Brazil. McLaren lead the way on the timesheets in all three practice sessions earlier in the week, and carried that domination over to qualifying where their final flying laps were too much to overcome by anyone.
When the checkered flag dropped at the end of Q3, Red Bull’s Mark Webber crossed the line first and took the provisional pole with 1:12.581s, but Hamilton’s speed would not be denied as he crossed the line with the time of 1.12.458s, just 0.055 seconds ahead his McLaren partner, who will start alongside him for his final race with the team.
“It's been a good weekend so far,” Hamilton said. “I’m grateful to be able to put the car on the front row and to have the last one-two in qualifying with Jenson in the same team. Just a fantastic job by the team - so grateful for all the opportunities they've given me. I hope that we can turn it into something really positive tomorrow.”
“We don’t yet know for certain what the weather conditions will be like tomorrow, but I hope that both Jenson and I will be able to push for victory. All in all, I’m very proud and happy that I got pole. Jenson and I are in the best possible starting positions for tomorrow. However, if it’s wet, the lead car is the always the first to aquaplane or hit the puddles, so, even if we both get good starts, we’ll still need to be cautious.”
As a result of McLarens dominance, Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were relegated to the second row in third and fourth spot, ahead of Hometown favorite Felipe Massa, who once again out-qualified his teammate Fernando Alonso who is fighting for a third title. Ferrari has acknowledged that there will be no repeat of the tactic it employed last weekend in Austin, with the team is now hopeful that Massa can get in the mix and aid Alonso's title challenge.
“We can’t suddenly expect to find ourselves ahead of Red Bull and McLaren, who have been consistently quicker than us this year in qualifying,” said Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director. “We knew we would have to fight for the third row and we managed to get at least one car there thanks to a nice Q3 from Felipe.”
All the forecasts are predicting rain in the coming hours and there’s a high chance of having a wet race. We will therefore have to be ready to manage a race that looks like being incident packed, as is the tradition in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Yesterday, over a long run we proved to be competitive, from what one can tell on a Friday, but the conditions will be very different, so it’s impossible to make predictions. The task facing us is an arduous one, but we will give it our all!”
Massa will start in fifth spot, ahead of William’s driver Pastor Maldonado, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and teammate Fernando Alonso who will start his title challenge in eighth place. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who underwent an engine change after final practice, will start behind the Spaniard in ninth, with Nico Rosberg from Mercedes rounding out the top 10.
Paul di Resta will start 11th, ahead of Wlliams driver Bruno Senna and Sauber’s Sergio Perez. In his final qualifying session of his career, Michael Schumacher could only manage 14th fastest and he will start ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
The big casualty for tomorrow’s race was handed down to Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, who failed to get out of the first qualifying session and will start the race all the way back in 18th place. The Frenchman lost his front wing to Pedro de la Rosa's HRT, as he attempted a pass near the pit lane entrance on the main straight. Grosjean had to head back to the pits for a replacement, and did not have enough time to improve his time to qualify for Q2.
Maldonado, who had qualified in sixth, has been handed a 10-place grid penalty by the Brazilian stewards after failing to bring his car to the weighbridge when called to do so by officials during Saturday’s qualifying session.
With Maldonado’s penalty is taken into consideration, Hulkenberg; Alonso, Raikkonen; Rosberg, Di Resta; Senna, Perez, Schumacher, Kobayashi and Ricciardo will all be promoted by one place on the grid.