SAO PAULO, Brazil — Lewis Hamilton feels he is on track to win his first Formula One title despite an average performance in Friday’s practice sessions for the decisive Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Briton was only fourth fastest overall in his McLaren at the 4.3-kilometer (2.6-mile) Interlagos track with a time of 1 minute, 12.495 seconds.
Former two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Renault was fastest in 1:12.296, ahead of title contender Felipe Massa of Ferrari and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli.
But despite his performance on Friday, Hamilton said he feels confident he has a good car 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. “The car felt good … I’m pretty comfortable that we have a good package.”
Hamilton was second fastest behind Massa in the morning session, but his time of 1:12.827 in the second session was good only for ninth place.
“This afternoon, we focused on our race pace — but we were interrupted by the threat of rain and the changeable wind direction,” Hamilton said. “I’m positive that the changes we’ve made will put us in a good position for tomorrow.”
Qualifying for the season-ending Brazilian GP takes place on Saturday.
Both practice sessions took place under cloudy conditions, and light rain fell at times. The temperature was lower than usual for this time of the year in South America’s biggest city at 17 degrees Celsius (62 Fahrenheit). Forecasters said it should get warmer during the weekend, but there is an 80 percent chance of rain during the race on Sunday.
Hamilton enters the finale seven points ahead of Massa, the home-crowd favorite. The British driver needs to finish fifth or better Sunday to become F1’s youngest champion at age 23. Alonso was 24 when he won the title in 2005.
Hamilton, who has 12 top-five finishes this year, can become champion even without finishing the race if Massa fails to cross the line first or second. Massa won in Brazil in 2006 and was second last year.
Hamilton is using the same engine from his victory in the Chinese Grand Prix two weeks ago, which could put him at a slight disadvantage because the Ferraris of Massa and defending champion Kimi Raikkonen are using new power. Drivers are required to use the same engine in two consecutive races.
Hamilton is trying to become the first British champion since Damon Hill in 1996. He lost a title chance in his rookie season a year ago after blowing a seven-point lead. An early mistake and a subsequent gear-box problem led to a seventh-place finish, and second overall in the drivers’ standings.
No McLaren driver has won in Brazil since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005.