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Hamilton dominates Shanghai opening session

Latest update : 2008-10-17

Despite spinning off the track more than once, Briton Lewis Hamilton was the fastest driver in the first practice session of the Shanghai Grand Prix. A win in China would make the McLaren driver a near-certain 2008 World Champion.

 

SHANGHAI - Lewis Hamilton made the best possible start to his quest to win the world title at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend by dominating both of the first two practice sessions on Friday.

 

The 23-year-old McLaren driver, who could become Formula One's youngest champion on Sunday, swept around the 5.451km circuit in one minute 35.630 seconds in the morning session and clocked the quickest lap in the afternoon as well.

 

The Briton will, however, be painfully aware that he also dominated all weekend in Shanghai last year but ended his race marooned in a gravel trap and ultimately gave up a 17-point championship lead to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

 

Raikkonen's team mate Felipe Massa is Hamilton's closest rival this year, trailing by five points with 20 up for grabs in the last two races, and the Brazilian was second best on Friday with a morning time of 1.36.020.

 

That compared with Hamilton's best of 1:35.630.

 

Poland's Robert Kubica, the only other driver left in the title race, showed what a struggle it will be for him to make up 12 points on Hamilton in the last two races as he was only able to muster the 10th fastest time of the day for BMW-Sauber.

 

Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso, who has won the last two races, continued his and Renault's revival with a flying lap late in the afternoon session for the third fastest time of 1:36.024.

 

World champion Raikkonen, whose interest in the drivers' championship is already over, was fourth quickest with a lap of 1.36.052 in the morning.

 

Hamilton showed no signs of being distracted by the continuing controversy over the safety of his driving, although he did run off the track on his sixth lap halfway through the opening session.

 

He recovered immediately to top the time sheets on his next go around and, although he was quickly trumped by Massa, his second stint saw him become the first driver to dip under 1.36 and he bettered even that four laps later.

 

The Briton opened the second session in similar style, quickly topping the time sheets with a run of 1.35.750 and, although he came off again on the tricky turn two again late in the session, no other driver came close to matching his time.

 

Hamilton was not the only one to have a problem at turn two and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais was the last of a string of drivers to leave the track at the chicane.

Date created : 2008-10-17

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