'Stronger' Hamilton is a positive pace-setter


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The Independent Online

Still bursting with the "positive energy" he had spoken of on Thursday, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in practice here yesterday.

On the home track of his great hero Ayrton Senna, the rejuvenated Englishman set the pace wearing headgear blending the designs of both his and Senna's distinctive yellow helmets. After the race it will be auctioned in support of the Senna Foundation.

The times were incredibly close, with the top eight drivers from McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes separated by less than a half-second.

Hamilton lapped in 1 min 13.392 sec to head the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, with Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg all covered by the proverbial handkerchief.

The first man you have to beat in F1 is your team-mate, but as Schumacher and Rosberg were separated by just one tenth of a second, Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn said that he was unconcerned by the increasingly intense battle between them and intended to let them work out their rivalry.

The duo came within millimetres of colliding as they raced so aggressively on the opening lap of the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Brawn said they both knew what they are doing and that such things did not worry him.

"I don't think the rivalry is emerging, it's always been there," he said. "You say to the guys: 'We will all work together in this as a team, and you have to find the right balance.' If I ever felt one driver was being outrageous against the other then we would talk about it, for sure, but nothing was said after Abu Dhabi because neither driver was upset about what the other one had done. It was pretty aggressive but they are free to race and I hope it can continue that way."

Brawn believes that Schumacher needs to improve his qualifying performance, rather than lift his race pace, and added: "At the moment he and Nico are fairly evenly matched in races, but Nico is better in qualifying so I think that is the area that Michael is working on trying to improve."

Hamilton, meanwhile, spoke of coming out stronger from a tough year which reached its nadir in Korea shortly after he split from his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.

"I can't say I am there yet," he said, "but when I get to the winter and reflect on the whole season I will. I'm definitely a lot wiser than when I started the season and that's always a positive." He added that he wanted to get away from the idea of the "happy bubble" of friends and family that he had espoused in Abu Dhabi, and preferred to focus on getting the balance of his life right.

"I mentioned the bubble in Abu Dhabi," he said. "I was just talking about having lots of positive people and family, most importantly. I've been reminded this year just how important family is. It's about striking a balance – you can be too serious, too intense, or not serious enough.

"I've been racing since I was eight years old and I still don't have the right formula for it. Obviously the car has a big impact on that, but every year is a journey to finding the right solution."

The journey that began in Abu Dhabi took another step forwards yesterday.

Practice Times

FIA Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo

First Practice

1 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1min 13.811secs

2 J Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.825

3 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.961

4 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault 1:14.025

5 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:14.507

6F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:14.541

7 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:15.162

8 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:15.178

9 P Di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes 1:15.241

10 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:15.321

11 J Alguersuari (Sp) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:15.468

12 R Grosjean (Swit) Renault 1:15.547

13 R Barrichello (Br) Williams-Cosworth 1:15.663

14 B Senna (Br) Renault 1:15.732

15 K Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1:15.747

16 P Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Cosworth 1:15.836

17 S Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:15.979

18 J-E Vergne (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.052

19 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus-Renault 1:16.514

20 L Razia (Br) Lotus-Renault 1:17.595

21 T Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.140

22 J d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.653

23 D Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-Cosworth 1:18.952

24 J Charouz (Cz Rep) HRT-Cosworth 1:19.577

Second Practice

1 L Hamilton:1:13.392

2 S Vettel1:13.559.

3 M Webber 1:13.587

4 F Alonso 1:13.598

5 M Schumacher 1:13.723

6 F Massa 1:13.750

7 J Button 1:13.787

8 N Rosberg 1:13.872

9 A Sutil1:14.144

10 P Di Resta 1:14.807

11 V Petrov 1:14.856

12 B Senna 1:14.931

13 S Perez 1:14.970

14 K Kobayashi 1:15.019

15 S Buemi 1:15.264

16 J Alguersuari 1:15.388

17 P Maldonado 1:15.679

18 R Barrichello 1:15.903

19 J Trulli 1:16.298

20 H Kovalainen 1:16.338

21 J d'Ambrosio 1:18.031

22 T Glock 1:18.051

23 D Ricciardo 1:18.367

24 V Liuzzi 1:18.476