Lewis Hamilton on top again in Brazil P2, but Sebastian Vettel again runs McLaren close
Alonso, meanwhile, slips to half a second off the pace at Interlagos
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 23/11/12 7:42pm
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel look poised to resume their battle from Austin last weekend in qualifying for the Brazilian GP after once again finishing first and second respectively on the Practice Two timesheet.
The McLaren and Red Bull pair have been inseparable at the head of the order since last Saturday's Q3 session in Texas and in the afternoon's running at a sun-kissed Interlagos their private duel continued unabated.
But like in the morning, it was Hamilton who held a slight edge around the undulating lap with the McLaren driver's opening time of 1:14.026 on the medium tyre just under three tenths of a second quicker than Vettel could manage on his own sole representative qualifying-style lap.
The pair's would-be rivals - including the man Vettel only really needs to be concerned about this weekend, Fernando Alonso - trailed half a second back with the sister Red Bull of Mark Webber third ahead of the two Ferraris, Felipe Massa marginally faster than his title-challenging team-mate.
Jenson Button appeared to be running with a skinnier rear wing on his MP4-27 compared to Hamilton, but despite being the fastest car through the speed trap by some distance, he was a full eight tenths slower than his team-mate.
This left the former World Champion behind the Mercedes pair of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in eighth place, both W03s showing a marked improvement over their morning form to give encouragement to the beleaguered Brackley team.
Lotus's Romain Grosjean and Force India's Paul di Resta, in need of a strong result at the season finale after a disappointing run over the final flyaways, rounded out the top-ten positions.
The other Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen was 12th after a disjointed day in which his morning spark-plug change was followed by tweaks to his E20's anti-roll bar in the early afternoon running.
What wasn't in doubt on Friday, however, was that Hamilton appears determined to end his McLaren career on an ultimate high by making it back-to-back wins on Sunday.
The 27-year-old, who has never even led a single lap at Interlagos despite clinching his sole world title there in 2008, underlined his inherent speed around the challenging lap straight away when the field switched to the 'option' compound mid-way through the session.
While Webber, Button and the two Ferraris then all fell a long way short of matching the flying Hamilton's low-1:14s time, Vettel, having had his return to the circuit delayed by the team having to top up water levels on his RB8, got significantly closer yet was still slower than the McLaren through both the twisty middle, and final, sectors.
However, while Hamilton's early advantage bodes well for his attempts to claim pole on Saturday, it may be rendered completely academic come race day given heavy and persistent rain is, according to the weather radars, "100%" guranteed for Sunday.
Indeed, the forecast dominate paddock chatter at Interlagos and, judging by Friday's form, the predicted Sunday deluge looks certain to remain Alonso's best hope of making a serious run at the title on Sunday.