Hamilton sets pace in China

Lewis Hamilton today shook off his Fuji frustration by setting the fastest time in both practice sessions ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton today shook off his Fuji frustration by setting the fastest time in both practice sessions ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton is a man under pressure in the wake of his first-corner mistake in last Sunday’s race in Japan which has since attracted a raft of criticism from drivers past and present.

His error in forcing Kimi Raikkonen wide and incurring a drive-through penalty ultimately led to his championship lead being cut to five points by the Finn’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.

But as if to prove the adverse reaction to what has unfolded has had no effect, Hamilton drove his McLaren to top spot in each of the two 90-minute sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit.

It was the first time Hamilton has been out in front in both of Friday’s practice runs since the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in July when he also chalked up his last win.

His hottest lap was set late in the first session as he clocked one minute 35.630 seconds for the 5.451km track, whilst the 23-year-old was 0.120secs slower in the second session.

Hamilton was comfortably quickest on both occasions, beating Massa into second by 0.390secs after the duo had traded fastest laps in the first session, and then Renault’s Fernando Alonso by 0.274secs in the second.

It was a typical second practice with the cars running on different fuel loads compared to the first, with a number of drivers then going with a late splash and dash.

Such a scenario elevated Alonso into second, with team-mate Nelson Piquet third ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber in his Red Bull.

Massa was sixth, 0.730secs adrift, followed by Sebastien Bourdais in his Toro Rosso which he spun into the gravel with 15 minutes of the session remaining.

Raikkonen, who spun in both sessions before recovering, the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg in his Williams rounded out the top 10.

David Coulthard was 14th for Red Bull, whilst the Honda duo of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello sat at the bottom of the timesheets, the latter 2.154secs adrift of Hamilton.

There was one notable moment in the opening session when Piquet slid off the pit lane entry and trundled across the gravel trap with 10 minutes remaining.

The Brazilian just managed to claw his way out before making his way to his pit box, with television cameras then swiftly cutting to Hamilton.

The Briton was sat in his car inside the McLaren garage staring at the TV monitor positioned over his cockpit.

Perhaps the incident reminded him of last year, when he was criticised for sliding off at exactly the same spot on severely-worn tyres, and on a damp track.

It was an incident that helped wreck his title dreams but he will realise that what happened to him then can happen to anyone at any time.

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