Formula 1 - Hamilton fastest in Sepang practice

Lewis Hamilton set the early pace in the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend with the quickest time in the opening free practice session for Mercedes.

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Formula 1 - Hamilton fastest in Sepang practice
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Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain takes a corner during the first practice session of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit (Reuters)

The Briton recorded his fastest time, a 1m40.691s lap, 0.152 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, an hour into the session, at the hot and humid Sepang International Circuit.

The first Formula 1 running early on Friday morning was characterised by a number of drivers struggling with rear grip and locking brakes on the dry and dusty circuit.

Fernando Alonso spun his Ferrari at the high-speed Turn 8 - a mistake repeated at the same corner by Williams's Felipe Massa. Hamilton went off at Turn 11 in the closing stages and the errors pointed to the general lack of grip at the tricky Sepang track.

A few teams suffered reliability problems in the blistering heat as they continued to adjust to their new 1.6-litre V6 power units.

McLaren's Keven Magnussen had just set the fastest time before the hour mark when his car came to a halt after losing engine power at the pitlane entrance. He set the fifth fastest time overall, just one place behind team-mate Jenson Button.

World champion Sebastian Vettel ended practice one in seventh place - 0.832s off Hamilton's quickest lap.

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Lotus hit the most trouble as Romain Grosjean stopped out on track after just two laps of running with a problem with his MGU-H, while team-mate Pastor Maldonado spent most of the session in the garage.

He emerged from the pits less than 20 minutes from the end of practice only to suffer a smoky end to his first lap back out of the pits.

Rosberg ended up third fastest in his Mercedes, but the Australian Grand Prix winner radioed into his team with an early concern with his car after he locked the rear brakes and nearly spun while entering the pitlane after his installation lap right at the beginning of the practice period.

Practice benefited from the use of the additional bonus tyre in the first half and hour and during that time Alonso was initially fastest ahead of Magnussen.

Among other incidents, Caterham's Marcus Ericssion and Sauber's Adrian Sutil both looped their cars under braking for the final corner but continued unharmed.

Sergio Perez suffered problems with his Force India and after his installation lap failed to complete another lap of the session.

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