Lewis Hamilton topped the times for McLaren in Friday’s opening free practice session for this weekend's title showdown Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.
The 27-year-old Briton, making his 110th and final appearance for McLaren before leaving for Mercedes next year, clocked a best time of one minute and 14.131sec to outpace nearest rival and defending drivers world champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Vettel’s only remaining title rival, capable of stopping him becoming at 25 years the youngest triple champion in Formula One history, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, was down in fifth place.
Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber was third quickest ahead of Hamilton’s McLaren partner and fellow Briton Jenson Button. The top four drivers were very closely matched and were separated by just 0.086 seconds from Hamilton.Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate local hero Brazilian Felipe Massa, chasing his third win on home soil, were fifth and sixth.
Vettel has a 13-points lead ahead of the race and has only to finish in the top four to end Alonso’s hopes, even if the Spaniard wins. But with rain forecast over the weekend, much remained open to speculation.