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Friday, October 31, 2008

Massa holds early edge in Brazil

Well, the final weekend is upon us, with Massa needing something big to take the championship. The Brazilian kicked things off in fine form, gaining the upper hand on Lewis Hamilton in both of today’s practice sessions for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was a close fought thing in the first session, with Massa edging Hamilton by a hair.

But the second session was a different animal. Massa finished second to Fernando Alonso, while Hamilton finished down in ninth in damp conditions.

“We found a good set-up for the car, which seemed to be well balanced in both sessions,” Massa explained. “The track here offers a lot of grip and so, even with today's low temperatures, that was not a problem, especially given the tyres we have available to us here.”

The changing weather caught McLaren out, but Hamilton is confident he has the pace he needs for the rest of the weekend.

“Our car was blindingly quick this morning despite the cold weather, which made the track feel quite slippery,” Hamilton said. “This afternoon we focused on our race pace - but we were interrupted by the threat of rain and the changeable wind direction. I flat-spotted my tyres on a couple of runs, but I’m positive that the changes we’ve made will put us in a good position for tomorrow."

For Massa, the car’s performance was a big boost, especially after a Chinese Grand Prix where his pace was well off his rival.

“It might only be Friday, but it's important to get off to a good start on such an important weekend,” Massa said.

Hamilton holds a seven-point lead in the title race over Massa entering the season’s final race at Interlagos, the same lead he held last year before mistakes and mechanical issues handed the championship to Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton needs only to finish fifth to sew it up this season, but with McLaren also still in the constructors’ hunt, it will be aiming for victory on Sunday.

Massa is historically strong on his home circuit, and today’s performance was no exception.

“My aim? To be in front of everyone, both tomorrow and on Sunday. Then we can do the maths when it's over.” Massa said. “Racing at home, with the crowd on your side is a great motivation for me: it's a fantastic feeling, but difficult to put it into words.”

Cooler than normal temps and rain are in the forecast for race day, so it should be interesting to see how the teams prepare for the title decider.

The action continues with qualifying on Saturday.

First free practice:
  1. Massa, Ferrari, 1:12.305
  2. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:12.495
  3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:12.507
  4. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:12.874
  5. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:12.925
  6. Alonso, Renault, 1:13.061
  7. Webber, Red Bull, 1:13.298
  8. Piquet, Renault, 1:13.378
  9. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:13.426
  10. Glock, Toyota, 1:13.466
  11. Trulli, Toyota, 1:13.600
  12. Rosberg, Williams, 1:13.621
  13. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:13.649
  14. Barrichello, Honda, 1:13.676
  15. Button, Honda, 1:13.766
  16. Nakajima, Williams, 1:13.806
  17. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:13.836
  18. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:13.861
  19. Sutil, Force India, 1:14.704
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:14.821

Second practice times:
  1. Alonso, Renault, 1:12.296
  2. Massa, Ferrari, 1:12.353
  3. Trulli, Toyota, 1:12.435
  4. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:12.600
  5. Webber, Red Bull, 1:12.650
  6. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:12.687
  7. Piquet, Renault, 1:12.703
  8. Rosberg, Williams, 1:12.761
  9. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:12.827
  10. Nakajima, Williams, 1:12.886
  11. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:12.896
  12. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:12.971
  13. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:13.038
  14. Glock, Toyota, 1:13.041
  15. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:13.213
  16. Barrichello, Honda, 1:13.221
  17. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:13.273
  18. Button, Honda, 1:13.341
  19. Sutil, Force India,1:13.428
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:13.691
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