Hamilton sets early pace

McLaren show improvement - and new diffuser - in Shanghai

Last Updated: 17/04/09 9:19am

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Hamilton: Pacesetter

Hamilton: Pacesetter

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World champion Lewis Hamilton has set the fastest time in Friday's first practice session for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

The McLaren Mercedes driver's fraught start to his title defence took a turn for the better as, with his car sporting a new updated diffuser in the wake of Wednesday's FIA International Court of Appeal ruling, he hit the top of the timesheets in Shanghai with a time of one minute 37.334 seconds.

With the team currently embroiled in the 'lie-gate' scandal stemming from Hamilton's Australian Grand Prix disqualification, and less than a day after team CEO Ron Dennis severed ties with the team after 28 years, further evidence that things might be moving slowly forward for McLaren on the track came after Heikki Kovalainen set the fourth quickest time.

The two were split by early-season pacesetters Brawn GP, with Jenson Button second quickest, 0.116s behind Hamilton, while his team-mate Rubens Barrichello was third fastest at 1:37.566s.

Mark Webber of Red Bull was fifth fastest, while Jarno Trulli again emphasised Toyota's strong pace with the sixth best time.

Williams' Nico Rosberg was seventh with Toyota's Timo Glock, Fernando Alonso of Renault and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais rounding out the top 10.

However, looking to score their first championship point of the season, there was more disappointment for Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa finishing 11th and 15th respectively - the Scuderia electing to ditch their KERS system ahead of the weekend.

Besides a new rear diffuser, McLaren's MP4-24 chassis took to the track sporting a new front wing - Hamilton going fastest on his 11th lap with a time of 1:37.603s.

Looking to complete a hat-trick of wins this weekend, Button went quickest soon after as he shaved 0.450s off Hamilton's time.

But Hamilton reclaimed top spot an hour into the 90-minute long session and remained there until the end.

Chinese Grand Prix, Friday practice session one:

1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren - Mercedes 1:37.334
2. Jenson Button (Britain) Brawn - Mercedes 1:37.450
3. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Brawn - Mercedes 1:37.566
4. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren - Mercedes 1:37.672
5. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1:37.752
6. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:37.764
7. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:37.860
8. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 1:37.894
9. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 1:38.089
10. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:38.195
11. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:38.223
12. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - Renault 1:38.274
13. Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:38.307
14. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1:38.319
15. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:38.418
16. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:38.456
17. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India - Mercedes 1:38.460
18. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:38.463
19. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1:38.730
20. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 1:38.825

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