Qualifying - Hamilton on pole for title decider in Brazil 24 Nov 2012
Ferraris Fernando Alonso now knows that he has a mountain to climb in Interlagos on Sunday afternoon if he is to beat Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel to the title. As McLaren locked out the front row in qualifying at the Sao Paulo track on Saturday, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, and Mark Webber outpaced Red Bull team mate Vettel, the Spaniard could do no better than eighth in his Ferrari.
Hamilton led all the way in the first runs in Q3, on a track that had dried after rain at lunchtime, but on the second runs Webber momentarily usurped him with 1m 12.581s. But Hamilton quickly redressed that to take his first-ever pole here with 1m 12.458s, and just after Vettels 1m 12.760s had fallen short of his team mate, Button slammed in a 1m 12.513s to snatch second.
Making it worse for Alonso, who couldnt better 1m 13.253s, team mate Felipe Massa went fifth quickest with 1m 12.987s to show Ferraris true potential.
Then Pastor Maldonado did 1m 13.174s for Williams and Nico Hulkenberg 1m 13.206s for Force India, leaving the Spaniard on the fourth row ahead of Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 13.298s and Mercedes Nico Rosberg on 1m 13.489s.
After qualifying, however, Alonso received a welcome boost as Maldonado was dropped 10 places down the grid after receiving his third reprimand of the season for missing a call to the weighbridge. The penalty promotes the Spaniard title hopeful up the order to seventh and the Venezuelan down to 16th.
These are the permutations: Vettel will be champion if he finishes in the top four, even if Alonso wins; if he finishes fifth, sixth or seventh if Alonso doesn't win; if he finishes eighth or ninth if Alonso finishes third or lower; or no matter what his result if Alonso isn't on the podium.
Alonso will be champion if he wins and Vettel is fifth or lower; if he is second and Vettel is eighth or lower; or if he is third and Vettel is 10th or lower.
Much will depend on the weather. Its due to rain on Sunday, and to stay wet all day, but as Button pointed out, the level of rain will also be important as that will decide just how much the drivers can race. A race like Canada 2011 may be Alonsos only chance
Things had brightened up by Q2, and soon the Q1 times were history. Hamilton was still leading the pace, until right at the end Vettel beat his 1m 13.398s with 1m 13.209s.
Further back there was drama with the two Brazilians on the bubble in the closing seconds. Massa made it through as 1m 14.048s left him 10th, knocking Paul di Resta to 11th with his 1m 14.121s for Force India, and Bruno Senna to 12th on 1m 14.219s for Williams.
Behind them, Sergio Perez didnt have the car beneath him to better 1m 14.234s and Sauber team mate Kamui Kobayashi managed 1m 14.380s. Thus the Swiss cars sandwiched Michael Schumacher, who qualified in his final Grand Prix in 14th for Mercedes on 1m 14.334s.
Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne took their usual 16th and 17th places for Toro Rosso, with 1m 14.574s and 1m 14.619s respectively.
The expected rain had arrived at 13.30 local time, but by the time Q1 began half an hour later the track was beginning to dry and everybody ran slicks straight away. The times tumbled rapidly with every successive lap, but it was Hamilton who was again the pacesetter, ending the 20-minute session fastest on 1m 15.075s as Senna and Button chased him.
Romain Grosjean was unlucky twice. First he got involved in an incident with Pedro de la Rosas HRT on the climb from Juncao towards the start/finish line, which removed the front wing of his Lotus. He made it to the pits for a replacement and had just scraped into 17th place when Daniel Ricciardo bumped him, leaving the Frenchman a disgruntled 18th on 1m 16.967s.
Behind him the Caterhams and Marussias were in their accustomed slots, with Vitaly Petrov 19th on 1m 17.073s from team mate Heikki Kovalainen (who spun) on 1m 17.086s. Marussias Timo Glock got close with 1m 17.508s, while Charles Pic managed 1m 18.104s. At the back, HRT's Narain Karthikeyan outqualified team mate De la Rosa, 1m 19.576s to 1m 19.699s.
Once Maldonado's penalty is taken into consideration, the starting order should be: Hamilton, Button; Webber, Vettel; Massa, Hulkenberg; Alonso, Raikkonen; Rosberg, Di Resta; Senna, Perez, Schumacher, Kobayashi; Ricciardo, Maldonado; Vergne, Grosjean; Petrov, Kovalainen; Glock, Pic; Karthikeyan, De la Rosa.
The stewards also reviewed the Grosjean/De la Rosa incident after the session. They decided that, although it could have resulted in a 'very serious outcome', it was a driving incident due to the nature of the circuit and won't take any further action.
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