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Lewis Hamilton fastest in free practice

Shanghai: Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in Friday’s practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, fending off the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to keep Mercedes at the top of the timesheets.

Hamilton signs autographs for fans in the paddock. pic/afp
Hamilton signs autographs for fans in the paddock. Pic/AFP

Hamilton lapped the 5.451 kilometer-long Shanghai International Circuit in one minute, 37.219 seconds, beating Raikkonen by just four-tenths of a second.

Daniel Ricciardo was a surprise third in the Red Bull, vaulting up the order late in the afternoon session after having sat out the opening 45 minutes.

Sebastian Vettel, who won the Malaysian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, ended the day fourth after surviving an early spin, edging out compatriot Rosberg in the Mercedes.

The 2014 title runner up could only manage fifth after making a mistake on his fastest lap.

Mercedes had appeared to have reasserted their dominance in the cold Chinese conditions after being dealt a shock defeat by Ferrari in the sweltering heat in Malaysia.

Hamilton had led Rosberg in the opening session with both Vettel and Raikkonen over a second shy of his benchmark time. But the Finn closed the gap in the afternoon after extracting more speed than the Mercedes on the grippier, softer tyre.

The Maranello-based squad also displayed strong long run pace, raising the prospect of another intriguing strategic battle for the win on Sunday.

Daniil Kvyat ended the day sixth-fastest but it was a far from smooth session for the Russian.

Like Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo, he sat out much of the afternoon and only managed ten laps before being sidelined by a brake failure. Both Red Bull drivers were driving with different brakes after struggling in Malaysia.

Valtteri Bottas ended a low-key day for Williams in seventh while Felipe Massa was 17th after a spectacular accident brought an early end to his day.

The Brazilian lost control of his car under braking for the turn 14 hairpin, lightly brushing the barrier before coming to a halt and prompting a brief red flag interruption.

There were glimmers of hope for McLaren after their early-season struggles. Jenson Button ended the day in the top ten while Fernando Alonso was 12th with the Spaniard setting his sights on making it through to the second part of qualifying.

The Woking-based team had started from the back row of the grid in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and in 17th and 18th in Malaysia – ahead only of the backmarking Manor Marussia of Roberto Merhi.

Piece on man running across the track

A Chinese man was handed over to police on Friday after he ran onto the track and into the pitlane saying he wanted to test a car, during the second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Replays showed the man, wearing a black jacket, darting across the start-finish straight even as one car had just passed and another approached before vaulting the pitwall into the pitlane.

It is understood that the man headed towards the Ferrari garage and was apprehended by circuit security who handed him over to the police.

He was seen to be waving a grandstand ticket and, speaking Chinese, said he wanted to test a car.

It is understood that security has been redoubled following the incident.

Track invasions, while uncommon, have happened in the past. An Irish priest ran onto the track during the 2003 British Grand Prix while a disgruntled Mercedes Benz employee invaded the Hockenheim track during the 2001 German Grand Prix.

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