SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren drives during practice for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 23, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Sao Paulo - Lewis Hamilton prepared to leave McLaren on a high by setting the fastest time in first practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday.

The Briton, who took his 2008 Formula One title at Interlagos and arrived in Brazil after winning the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas last Sunday, lapped the anti-clockwise layout with a best time of one minute 14.131 seconds in sunny but hazy conditions.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader who is favourite to clinch his third successive title on Sunday, was second fastest and just 0.009 off Hamilton's pace.

However the 25-year-old German set his 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 the timesheets and 0.261 slower than the quickest McLaren.

2013 TYRES

“The 2013-spec tyres here are a bit of a hybrid. It is the hard compound but the structure is different, the tyres weigh 1kg more,” Pirelli motorsport head Paul Hembery told BBC television.

“It is a chance for the teams to gain some data because the cars are not adapted to this product. The information so far has been positive. The quickest times of the day have been on the prototype.”

Australian Mark Webber and McLaren's Jenson Button were third and fourth with Alonso's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa sixth.

Spaniard Alonso must finish on the podium on Sunday 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.

Hamilton is moving to Mercedes next season, a team that has been largely uncompetitive this year with their only highlight Nico Rosberg's win in China.

The Briton acknowledged after arriving in Brazil that Sunday's race will be emotional, possibly also his last chance in a while to stand on top of the podium. He intends to go flat out to get there.

Michael Schumacher, the seven-times world champion who is retiring for the second time on Sunday, lapped 11th fastest for Mercedes.

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

Motor racing-Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix 1st free practice session

Nov 23 (Infostrada Sports) - 1st Free Practice Session from the Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on Friday


1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren - 1:14.131

2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull-Renault - 1:14.140

3. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull-Renault - 1:14.198

4. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 1:14.217

5. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 1:14.392

6. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari - 1:14.716

7. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus-Renault - 1:14.719

8. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India-Mercedes - 1:14.738

9. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams-Renault - 1:15.015

10. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) - Force India-Mercedes - 1:15.050

11. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes - 1:15.114

12. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber-Ferrari - 1:15.255

13. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber-Ferrari - 1:15.396

14. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Renault - 1:15.413

15. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso-Ferrari - 1:15.587

16. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus-Renault - 1:15.701

17. Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso-Ferrari - 1:16.048

18. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 1:16.315

19. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham-Renault - 1:16.460

20. Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia-Cosworth - 1:16.506

21. Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham-Renault - 1:16.617

22. Charles Pic (France) Marussia-Cosworth - 1:17.234

23. Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT-Cosworth - 1:17.678

24. Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT-Cosworth - 1:17.895