Vettel happy with Friday's work but long-run pace offers encouragement for Alonso
Championship leader second-fastest in both practice sessions
Last Updated: 23/11/12 8:26pm
Both of Friday's practice timesheets ended in near-identical fashion, with Lewis Hamilton edging out Sebastian Vettel and the World Champion's Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber.
Were those positions to be repeated on Sunday then Vettel would claim a third successive championship with relative ease, yet with heavy rain forecast for race day the German is taking nothing for granted.
"Nowadays we don't really have a wet set-up anymore, there are a couple of things you would like to change if it is really wet, but if it is not that wet then we will just put on the wet tyres and go from there," Vettel told Sky Sports F1.
"It was a good day for us, we had no major problems and I had a decent long run at the end."
Fernando Alonso, who has to finish on the podium on Sunday if he is to have any chance of beating the Red Bull driver to a third title of his own, was fifth-fastest in the afternoon running, just behind Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
The Spaniard admitted he wasn't yet completely happy with his F2012's handling but suggested that with very different conditions expected to greet the grid on Sunday - in the form of persistent heavy rain - Ferrari had to focus on the car's set-up for race day in particular.
"We have not yet found the ideal balance on the car, so there is still a lot of work to be done with the engineers going into the rest of the weekend," Alonso said.
"The predictions are for very different conditions from Saturday to Sunday, further reason to concentrate on the best choices when it comes to preparing the car for qualifying, but especially for the race.
"It's hard to say if we prefer rain or the dry: as I said before, it is vital to be prepared to tackle both situations.
"We know we have to score 14 points more than Vettel for the Championship and not lose the same number to McLaren to maintain our second place in the Constructors'. Our targets are clear, but also difficult to achieve."
However, Alonso can never be written off - especially if the predictions of heavy rain on Sunday prove prescient - and the Ferrari driver's pace during his race-simulation at the close of Practice Two offered more than a glimmer of hope.
"The second session was far more relevant because in the first a lot of teams were using the 2013 tyres. But what I was impressed with was Alonso's run at the end on the hard tyres and I was impressed with Massa's run on the mediums - both of those guys were quick," commented Sky Sports F1 analyst Allan McNish.
"And what surprised me is that Vettel and Webber didn't look as good. Their lap times weren't as quick and the car didn't look very stable. And the fastest driver was clearly Hamilton."