Hamilton in line for big finish after securing pole for Brazilian Grand Prix
17:49 GMT, 24 November 2012
Lewis Hamilton gave McLaren their first pole position in Brazil for 12 years ahead of his final grand prix for the Woking-based team.
With Jenson Button alongside him, the duo combined to give McLaren their 62nd front-row lock-out as they left championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso trailing in their wake.
Vettel, who has a 13-point cushion over Alonso, will line up fourth as even Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber managed to qualify ahead of him, whilst Alonso is a disastrous eighth in his Ferrari.
Pole position: Lewis Hamilton (centre) starts ahead of Jenson Button (right) and Mark Webber
Hamilton is currently on a high at the end of his 14-year association with McLaren before joining Mercedes on a three-season contract from next year after winning in the United States last week.
Hamilton, yet to win in Brazil, was again brilliant as he posted a time of one minute 12.458secs for the undulating Interlagos circuit.
The 27-year-old edged team-mate Button by 0.055secs, with Webber then ahead of Vettel by almost two tenths of a second.
Felipe Massa lines up fifth in his Ferrari, followed by the Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, and then Alonso.
Maldonado, however, missed a weighbridge session at the end of Q1, and could yet be penalised by the stewards, so potentially promoting Alonso at least one place.
Centre stage: Hamilton left Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the shadows
The fifth row of the grid sees Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen alongside Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes.
A heavy rain shower 35 minutes prior to the start which lasted for around five minutes caused some consternation, and threatened to turn the grid on its head.
But with air temperatures of 24 degrees, the track was relatively dry an hour later come the start of the second session, which made for a straightforward programme.
Come the end of the middle 15-minute period, hopes for Force India's Paul di Resta of making the top 10 were dashed as the Scot will line up 11th after missing the cut by 0.073secs.
Di Resta starts ahead of Williams' Bruno Senna and Sergio Perez on his last outing for Sauber before joining McLaren, with Michael Schumacher 14th at the end of his final qualifying run in F1 and for Mercedes ahead of retiring for a second time.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, without a seat for next season after the team announced Esteban Gutierrez is to step up, starts 15th ahead of Toro Rosso pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Nobody faster: Hamilton secured his first pole position at Interlagos with a fine performance
The worst of the conditions were at the start of Q1, throughout which a dry line eventually materialised and the lap times tumbled.
With his future on the line, as he has yet to be confirmed for 2013, Lotus' Romain Grosjean made a critical mistake by clipping the back of the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa, resulting in him losing his front wing, and a stewards' investigation.
Although the Frenchman was able to return to the pits for a new nose and post one final quick lap, it was not enough to lift him out of the bottom seven for the first time this season.
'He (De la Rosa) didn't see me and there was no space to squeeze between him and the wall,' said Grosjean.
'It's a disaster for tomorrow because we have a very good car.'
It means Grosjean will start 18th ahead of Caterham duo Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen, both fighting for the one remaining seat with the team after Charles Pic was confirmed yesterday.
Big finish: Lewis Hamilton starts on pole for the final race of the season and his last with McLaren
On his final outing for Marussia, Pic was out-qualified by team-mate Timo Glock, the duo starting 21st and 22nd ahead of the HRTs on the back row, with Narain Karthikeyan in front of De la Rosa.
Hamilton is now looking to end his McLaren days on a high following the 26th pole position of his career, and his first in Brazil.
'It's been a good weekend so far, and I'm grateful to be able to put the car on the front row,' said Hamilton.
'To have a one, two with Jenson, that's a fantastic job by the team, I'm grateful for all the opportunities the team have given me, and hopefully we can turn it into a positive.
'The weather is going to be tricky tomorrow (with rain forecast), so it's going to make it more of a lottery.
Pushing hard: Jenson Button also starts on the front row alongside team-mate Hamilton
'But we've put ourselves in a good position, we'll work together as a team, and we'll make sure we do absolutely everything to get the top result.'
Button hinted it to be a shame his partnership is ending with fellow Briton Hamilton as he said: 'I'm very happy to be on the front row because my last couple of qualifyings have been a bit tricky.
'To both be on the front row for Lewis' last grand prix with the team…the team is in great shape, and it's a pity things have to change, but things do change.'
Webber, with Vettel right behind him, refused to concede whether he will play any role in helping the 25-year-old German.
The Australian said: 'We focus on ourselves and do the cleanest race we can. I'll be focusing on my effort in the cockpit given there will be some tricky conditions.'