Lewis Hamilton set only the ninth fastest time during yesterday's second practice session for the race that will decide whether he becomes the sport's 30th and youngest world champion. But he was completely cool about it.
In the hour and a half morning session he wheeled his McLaren-Mercedes to the second fastest time behind title rival Felipe Massa, with respective times of 1min 12.305sec and 1:12.495.
In the afternoon Massa was pipped by Fernando Alonso in his Renault, 1:12.296 to 1:12.353, on a track that was at one time rendered slick in places by a quick rain shower.
That happened while Hamilton was doing the usual Friday afternoon grunt work of evaluating the two types of Bridgestone race tyre – in this case the medium prime compound and the soft option compound – and conducting work for the race. By the time he ran with new tyres and a low fuel load, right at the end, he just missed the cut to go for a quick lap but was nevertheless well in touch with 1:12.827. By Friday standards it was nothing to worry about. Indeed, thus far the McLaren has been very competitive on a circuit that has favoured Ferrari in the past two years.
"It was a useful day in which we got a lot of work done," Hamilton said. "I'm very happy with the way the car went and I am confident that we have laid the foundation that will stand us in good stead when it matters tomorrow."
Massa, meanwhile, relieved that laser treatment for kidney stones had earlier in the week proved successful for his father Luis Antonio, who was able to join him at the circuit, said: "This was a good day. The car feels really good here and we can be strong on Sunday."
Brazilian Grand Prix first practice times (Interlagos, Sao Paulo):
1 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1 min 12.305 secs; 2 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.495; 3 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:12.507; 4 R Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber 1:12.874; 5 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.925; 6 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:13.061; 7 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:13.298; 8 N Piquet (Br) Renault 1:13.378; 9 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber 1:13.426; 10 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:13.466; 11 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:13.600; 12 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:13.621; 13 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.649; 14 R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:13.676; 15 J Button (GB) Honda 1:13.766; 16 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:13.806; 17 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.836; 18 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:13.861; 19 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:14.704; 20 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 1:14.821.