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Hamilton soaking up memories with McLaren

Published: 1:27PM Saturday November 24, 2012 Source: Reuters

Lewis Hamilton prepared for an emotional farewell to McLaren with the fastest time in practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix today.

The Briton, who took his 2008 Formula One title at Interlagos and arrived in Brazil from winning the US Grand Prix in Texas last week, lapped the anti-clockwise layout with a best time of 1m 14.131s in sunny, but hazy morning conditions.

The 27-year-old, who joins Mercedes next season, then lapped in 1m 14.026s in the heat of the afternoon.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader favoured to clinch his third successive title on Monday, was second fastest in both sessions.

He was just 0.009s off Hamilton's pace before lunch and 0.274s slower after the break.

However, the 25-year-old German set his morning time on this year's Pirelli tyres, while Hamilton's came in a test of next year's prototype rubber.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso - Vettel's only title rival, but 13 points off the lead - was fifth on both timesheets, 0.261s and 0.566s slower respectively than the quickest McLaren.

Hamilton, who welled up with emotion in a BBC interview earlier in the week, said he was savouring every moment of the weekend.

"I just took some pictures of my engineers," he said afterpractice. "I'll take some pictures of my mechanics later on today and I said we have to take a picture every day.

"This is one of the best Fridays we've had for a long, long time. It's a perfect last Friday to have.

"I feel very good at the moment - we're definitely strong, just as we were in the last three or four races," said the Briton.

"But here is so tough on the tyres. I hope that we can continue to compete with them [Red Bull] tomorrow. That would be the best Saturday to have a pole, for sure."

Slippery track

Vettel said the track had been very slippery, but was happy with his day's work.

"It was quite hot today and in terms of track conditions, not that easy," he said.

Australian Mark Webber was third in the morning and afternoon, while McLaren's Jenson Button was fourth in the first session. Alonso's Brazilian team-mate Felipe Massa was fourth after lunch.

Spaniard Alonso must finish on the podium on Monday to have any hope of taking his third title, while Vettel will be champion regardless of other results, if he can secure fourth place or better.

"We have not yet found the ideal balance on the car, so there is still a lot of work to be done with the engineers going into the rest of the weekend," said the Spaniard, also mindful that the weather is expected to turn wet at the weekend.

"Our targets are clear, but also difficult to achieve."

Hamilton has raced for McLaren for all of his Formula One career and could face a barren spell at Mercedes, a team that has been largely uncompetitive this year, with their only highlight Nico Rosberg's win in China.

After arriving in Brazil, the Briton acknowledged that Monday's race could be his last chance in a while to stand on top of the podium, but Mercedes did their best to give him some hope today.

Michael Schumacher - the seven-times world champion, who is retiring for the second time on Monday to make way for Hamilton at Mercedes - was sixth in the second session, ahead of Rosberg, with Button eighth.

The 43-year-old German had a special message for his fans on his helmet: "Life is about passions, thank you for sharing mine."