1 of 7
Victor R. Caivano, Associated Press
A cloud of cold air engulfs Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, as he sits in the garage during a practice session at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. The Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix will be held Sunday.

SAO PAULO — McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton had the fastest time Friday in practice for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, outpacing Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Hamilton had a time of 1 minute, 13.392 seconds at the 2.6-mile Interlagos track. Vettel was second with a time of 1:13.559 ahead of Webber with 1:13.587.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was fourth-fastest in 1:13.598.

With the title already decided, Sunday's race features the fight for second place, with Webber, Alonso and Jenson Button all with a chance to finish runner-up.

Webber had been the fastest in the first practice session in South America's biggest city, followed by Button and Hamilton.

A mechanical failure forced Alonso to stop with about five minutes to go in the morning session and change his engine. He was not penalized for the change, however, because he switched to a used engine instead of a new one, which would have incurred a grid penalty for the race.

The two-time world champion, who had clocked the sixth-fastest time in the morning, appeared to struggle with the car in the afternoon and went off the track a couple of times.

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, a four-time winner in Brazil, was fifth in his Mercedes with a time of 1:13.723. Crowd favorite Felipe Massa, in his 100th race with Ferrari, was sixth in 1:13.750 on a hot day at Interlagos.

Button has a 10-point advantage over Alonso and a comfortable 18-point lead over Webber in the standings. The British driver will secure the runner-up spot just by finishing ahead of Alonso and Webber.

Vettel clinched the championship at the Japanese GP — with four races to spare — after dominating this season with 11 victories and 14 pole positions. If Vettel can win the pole in Saturday's qualifying, he will surpass Nigel Mansell for the single-season record. Vettel won his 14th pole at Abu Dhabi to tie Mansell.

Comment on this story

Hamilton won the race in Abu Dhabi after Vettel retired on the first lap because of a punctured tire that damaged his car.

It will be the first time in seven years that the title will not be decided in Brazil. The season had its champion crowned at Interlagos for five straight years until 2010, when Vettel clinched the trophy in Abu Dhabi, which ended the season last year.

The constructors' championship also has been decided in favor of Red Bull, with McLaren set to finish second and Ferrari at least third no matter the outcome in Sunday's race.