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Hamilton fastest in opening practice

india Updated: Apr 17, 2009 10:41 IST

AFP
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World champion Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a return to form on Friday ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, leading the timesheets after the first practice session.

The 24-year-old Englishman, stripped of a podium finish in Australia after misleading stewards in a post-race hearing, has scored just one point from the opening two races of his 2009 campaign.

But he finished the first practice at the Shanghai International Circuit with a best lap of 1 minute 37.334 seconds, 0.116 seconds ahead of compatriot Jenson Button in a Brawn GP.

Button's teammate Rubens Barrichello was third, while Hamilton's teammate, Finn Heikki Kovalainen, was fourth, 0.338secs slower than his McLaren stablemate. Australian Mark Webber was fifth for Red Bull Racing.

Hamilton benefitted from his car being fitted with a version of the double-decker diffuser that has served Brawn and Toyota well this season as he took top spot from early pacesetter Jarno Trulli.

He was briefly deposed from the lead by Button, winner of both races this season, before producing his session-best lap on the one-hour mark, with the top five remaining unchanged in the latter stages of the session.

While McLaren displayed signs of a resurgence, Ferrari's 2009 woes continued with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa ending 11th and 15th place respectively.

Both Ferraris, along with Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, Toyota's Timo Glock and Renault's Nelson Piquet, were among cars to run wide or off the circuit in windy conditions, with all drivers able to regroup and continue.

Trulli spent over 30 minutes in the pits after a problem with his steering wheel display on his Toyota after showing considerable pace in the first half-hour.

A second 90-minute session will be held later on Friday.