Struggling world champion title-holder Lewis Hamilton was the fastest at the first practice race for the upcoming Bahrain GP. The Briton's McLaren team was disqualified from the Australian GP and risk heavy sanctions at a hearing in Paris next week.
REUTERS - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton shrugged off the troubles surrounding his McLaren team to set the pace in Friday's first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Briton, whose team risk heavy sanctions at a hearing in Paris next week after a storm over lying to stewards at the Australian season-opener, lapped the Sakhir circuit in one minute, 33.647 seconds.
The Briton, whose team were disqualified in Australia and have only eight points from three races, had also been quickest in the corresponding session in China last week before being replaced at the top in the afternoon.
BMW-Sauber filled the next two places on the timesheets on a hot and overcast morning with Germany's Nick Heidfeld ahead of Poland's Robert Kubica.
The top three cars were all equipped with the new KERS energy recovery system, that offers drivers an extra boost of power at the push of a button, at a circuit where it is expected to be a real advantage.
Williams' Nico Rosberg, who has so far failed to translate his speed in practice into similarly high-flying race results, was fourth fastest ahead of Brawn GP's championship leader Jenson Button.
Button, who won the first two races of the season and finished third in China, is seen as a favourite to return to the top of the podium with the Brawn likely to be more competitive in the hot conditions.
McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen was sixth ahead of Brawn's Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, seeking the champions' first points of the season on Sunday.
Mercedes-powered McLaren, who warned at the start of the season that their car was still some way off becoming a winner, have brought new developments to Bahrain in an effort to close the gap at the top.
"We have a few modifications for the floor, hopefully a little bit more downforce, but nothing dramatic," said Kovalainen, whose team mate has been kept well away from the media since arriving in Bahrain.
Date created : 2009-04-24