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Hamilton snares pole in McLaren lock-out
24 November 2012
Despite being out of the title fight, McLaren ensured it would take some of the headlines in Brazil after Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button locked out the front row of the grid for the 2012 F1 title decider at Interlagos.
In a session that started in challenging damp conditions after a brief rain shower, McLaren continued to lead the way on the timesheets as – having paced all three practice sessions – the Woking-based squad again led the way when it came to determining the grid positions.
Neither driver had suffered any scare in making it through to Q3 on a rapidly improving circuit, with the final flying laps proving to be the key ones in the final ten-minute shootout.
When the chequered flag dropped, the leading protagonists were all on their quickest laps of the session with Mark Webber taking provisional pole for Red Bull before Hamilton crossed the line to move into top spot with a time of 1min 12.458secs.
Points leader Sebastian Vettel then went third only to see Button beat both Red Bulls to go second – just 0.055sec behind his McLaren partner, who will now start his final race for the team at the head of the pack.
Webber and Vettel will therefore share the second row of the grid ahead of Felipe Massa, who once again out-qualified team-mate Fernando Alonso. Ferrari has already revealed there will be no repeat of the tactic it employed last weekend in Austin, with the team now hoping the Brazilian can get in the mix at the start to aid Alonso's title challenge,
Massa shares row three of the grid with Pastor Maldonado, although the Venezuelan could find himself in trouble for missing a weight check in the session – the same thing that caused Webber to pick up a reprimand last weekend in Austin.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Alonso then share row four - the Spaniard ending up eight tenths of a second away from pole – while Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg rounded out the top ten; Raikkonen having undergone an engine change after final practice.
The Q2 runners were headed by Paul di Resta, who once again was unable to join Force India partner Hulkenberg in the final stage of qualifying and will start from eleventh with Bruno Senna also unable to make it into Q3 on his final lap of the session.
Three men in their final races for their current teams followed behind, with Sergio Perez 13th as Sauber continued to struggle for outright speed with Michael Schumacher starting his final race in F1 from 14th. Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso duo Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out those drivers to fall in Q2.
What that meant was that the big casualty in the opening phase of the session was Romain Grosjean, who dropped out with the three new teams to leave him with an awful lot to do on race day.
Having shown top six pace in the final practice session in the morning, the Frenchman saw his chances of a good grid slot disappear when he clashed with the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa coming round the final corner – with Grosjean trying to go through an ever-decreasing gap up the inside of the Spaniard and then hitting the rear of his car.
Damage to his front wing meant Grosjean was forced to pit for a change and although he was able to get back out for one final flying lap, he was unable to set a time quick enough to make it into Q2.
Of the new teams, Vitaly Petrov was quickest for Caterham having edged out team-mate Heikki Kovalainen ahead of what could be the final race for both with the team, with Timo Glock's Marussia half a second further back.
Charles Pic starts his final race in the second MArussia from 22nd with Narain Karthikeyan quicker than de la Rosa, who suffered damage to the rear of his car in the incident with Grosjean.
The HRT pair were more than a second behind their rivals in what could be the team's final appearance in F1, should it fail to find a buyer during the off-season.
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