Lewis Hamilton continued to upstage the championship challengers by topping both Friday Practice sessions ahead of the title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix. Hot on the heels of his U.S. Grand Prix win, the McLaren driver clocked the fastest time but the field was closely packed around the second shortest lap of the year.
The morning session gave the teams their first chance to try out the developmental 2013 Pirelli tyres and Hamilton used them to set a 1:14.131 twenty minutes in, although he did complain that they were overheating moments later. Surprisingly, his time wouldn’t be beaten in the hour that followed but Sebastian Vettel did get to within nine thousandths of a second, doing his best lap on the prime tyres.
Jenson Button also got to within a tenth of the outright pace but was pushed down to fourth by Mark Webber’s Red Bull before the end. The two Ferraris completed the top six with Fernando Alonso offering encouragement for the Scuderia by ending the morning just a quarter of a second down.
With the temperatures climbing, the lap times didn’t tumble as usual in the afternoon session with Hamilton only going a tenth quicker despite the option tyres coming into play. In fact, many drivers were slower than they were earlier with the two Red Bulls included although Vettel and Webber were still quick enough to secure second and third.
Home favourite Felipe Massa turned the tables on teammate Fernando Alonso to go fourth ahead of the Spaniard while Michael Schumacher edged out Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg for sixth, making a strong start to his final Grand Prix weekend. Jenson Button tumbled to eighth in the afternoon after trying out a lower-downforce set-up which saw him locking the front wheels regularly.
Romain Grosjean was the leading Lotus in ninth with the Force Indias of Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg close behind but Kimi Raikkonen was far from happy in the second E20, only going twelfth fastest, 1.3s down on Hamilton’s McLaren.
On a largely low-key day as far as on-track incidents were concerned, Charles Pic caused one of the few yellow flag periods when his alternator failed during FP2. The French rookie won’t be in Marussia machinery for much longer though after it was announced this morning that he’d be driving for Caterham in 2013.