Lewis Hamilton has gone quickest in the opening practice session of the Brazilian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has set the pace in the opening practice session for the Formula 1 season finale at Brazil. With the running a prototype Pirelli tyre compound this session, Hamilton edged out Sebastian Vettel by just nine-thousandths of a second.

This was a critical session for the field. Not only are there crucial battles up and down the championship standings, but the opportunity to run on 2013-spec Pirelli tyres would be the teams’ one and only opportunity to gather critical data for next year’s car designs.

One would therefore think that all teams would aim to run as much as possible in the session, and barring any mechanical dramas, the field did so.

All except one outfit: HRT, which only completed less than half of the laps piloted by the other eleven teams. As expected, both Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan occupied the final two places on the timesheets, and the limited running was all part of the team’s ‘plan’, or so their end-of-day press release would claim.

The truth is perhaps not too far from this. Since the team has been put on the market, rumours have abounded that the team has a scarcity of spare parts, and the parts that are being run on both F112 chassis’ have limited mileage left in their lifespan. One can save money in many ways, it would seem…

Kimi Räikkönen was the only other driver to register a fraction of the mileage of the others, but it is believed that the Finn’s Lotus was stricken with an exhaust problem, which explained why he was confined to the garage for at least half the session and only clocked up sixteen laps.

Up at the front, it was a tightly-fought contest for top honours, and in the end it was Hamilton who took his McLaren to the top of the pecking order in his final Grand Prix for the Woking squad.

Last weekend’s winner in Texas posted a 1:14.131, just nine thousandths of a second quicker than Sebastian Vettel, who was himself less than six-hundredths of a second faster than his Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber.

Right behind the leading trio came Jenson Button, with Fernando Alonso completing the top-five spots, only a quarter of a second slower than Hamilton on the timesheets.

The session was generally incident-free – save for a spin each for Timo Glock and Felipe Massa. Both were able to rejoin the action with nothing more than damaged pride and a few interesting shots for the cameras.

2012 Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:14.131   33
2. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:14.140 + 0.009 35
3. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:14.198 + 0.067 34
4. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:14.217 + 0.086 31
5. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:14.392 + 0.261 28
6. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:14.716 + 0.585 29
7. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:14.719 + 0.588 33
8. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:14.738 + 0.607 34
9. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:15.015 + 0.884 37
10. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:15.050 + 0.919 32
11. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:15.114 + 0.983 36
12. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:15.255 + 1.124 31
13. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:15.396 + 1.265 32
14. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW34 1:15.413 + 1.282 23
15. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:15.587 + 1.456 35
16. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:15.701 + 1.570 16
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:16.048 + 1.917 35
18. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:16.315 + 2.184 36
19. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT01 1:16.460 + 2.329 32
20. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:16.506 + 2.375 31
21. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:16.617 + 2.486 30
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:17.234 + 3.103 26
23. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:17.678 + 3.547 15
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:17.895 + 3.764 13

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.