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Hamilton takes pole position in Brazilian F1 GP

SAO PAULO -- Lewis Hamilton won the pole position for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday, while Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel will start fourth and title challenger Fernando Alonso only seventh.

Hamilton set a lap of 1 minute, 12.458 seconds with his McLaren at Interlagos, just .055 in front of teammate Jenson Button. Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber will start third after a lap of 1:12.581, with Vettel behind him with a run of 1:12.760.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fifth after clocking 1:12.987, while teammate Alonso only managed a lap of 1:13.253, hurting his chances of overtaking Vettel for the championship. His lap was only good for eighth place, but he later moved up a spot because sixth-place Pastor Maldonado of Williams was penalized 10 grid positions for not stopping for weighing.

Vettel needs to finish fourth or better on Sunday to become F1's youngest three-time champion at age 25. Alonso, also seeking his third title, needs at least a podium finish to have any chance of overcoming the 13-point deficit he has to Vettel.

The Spaniard said he didn't expect a lot more in qualifying and is hoping the rain that is forecast for Sunday materializes.

“I'm sure in the wet we can pick up some performance,” he said. “Would be better than in dry conditions.”

Vettel said a mistake at the end of the qualifying session cost him a chance to start closer to the front, but didn't think the result was “a disaster.”

“Maybe it's not the best position that we could've gotten, but still we can be quite happy,” he said. “I think there are more people behind us than in front of us. If we were 24th, than that would be disappointing, but I'm happy with fourth and there's plenty of opportunities for tomorrow in terms of tactics.”

Hamilton, who won the 2008 championship at Interlagos, will be driving his last race with McLaren before joining Mercedes next season. He is coming off a victory at the United States GP last week, and another triumph in his farewell race with the British team would be extra special.

“I think we put ourselves in a really good position and we are just going to do the best that we can from here, working together as a team,” Hamilton said.

McLaren has been strong all weekend and seems set to play a role at the title showdown between Vettel and Alonso. Hamilton led the practice times on Friday and Button did the same earlier on Saturday. Vettel was always close behind the McLarens while Alonso was well behind the pace.

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British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of McLaren gestures to celebrate the pole position for the Brazilian GP at the Interlagos racetrack in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Nov. 24. (AFP)

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