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Hamilton tops Friday practice in Australia

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Hamilton tops Friday practice in Australia

Despite appalling conditions of intermittent rain and a stiff breeze, Lewis Hamilton managed to set the fastest lap of the day in Friday's second practice session for the Grand Prix of Australia, with a 1:25:801 at the Albert Park circuit in ...

Despite appalling conditions of intermittent rain and a stiff breeze, Lewis Hamilton managed to set the fastest lap of the day in Friday's second practice session for the Grand Prix of Australia, with a 1:25:801 at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"We're feeling positive." said Hamilton. "We'd hoped to evaluate some further changes at the end of P2, but the track still wasn't up to full speed. Nevertheless, we feel quite comfortable with the balance of the car. I actually feel very relaxed: I've got a car that probably feels better than I've ever had at this track, so that's a major positive."

His McLaren teammate, current World Champion Jenson Button, was a few tenths behind, followed by home hero Mark Webber, who finished third best.

Even with intermittent rain Webber is positve after today's sessions, "It wasn't too bad today. Everyone's programmes were disrupted in P2 with the intermittent weather. It's pretty much the team's worst nightmare when the weather's just on the edge like that; you can't commit to learning too much in the wet and it's quite tricky in the dry as well. We had a couple of windows where we got some information though, so we have good data to go through tonight."

The final practice session of the day was known for the weather that puzzled many drivers whether they should come out and drive or not. Many drivers sat and waited for the drizzle to stop so they could continue to practice. But the best times were set right at the beginning of the session before the drizzle was at its heaviest. With 25 minutes remaining in the session, Hamilton already had put his mark on the fastest time, and it was questionable whether driving around in the damp was worth anything, especially when veteran driver Rubens Barrichello ventured out of how his Williams would handle in conditions like these.

"The rain came in P2, it affected everyone," commented Barrichello. "The team did a really good job sending me out at the right times when the track was dry so we collected as much information as we could considering the conditions. There is still quite a lot of work to be done in order to get us through to Q3 tomorrow."

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The new teams continued to get more lap times, as HRT drove out of the pits for only a short distance, and then encountered gearbox failure, while teammate Bruno Senna sat out the session with fuel pressure problems. Lotus managed to get plenty of laps, but not fast ones; while Virgin, struggling with a small gas tank, let Timo Glock go out only for nine laps, while Lucas di Grassi was sidelined. Michael Schumacher was also sidelined with mechanical issues, but once the seven time world champion finally recorded some laps, he was up with the best.

"As often on Fridays, the performance is difficult to judge as everybody seemed to be on different programmes," Schumacher explained. "Having said that, I am quite happy with today's sessions, even if we did not run too much overall. My first session was a bit handicapped by red flags, later we faced some rain in the second session. But all in all, we learned a lot and we could improve the set up of our car quite reasonably. In the end our times were competitive so I think we can look forward to the rest of the weekend."

The weather was much better in the previous session, and under sunny skies, Renault driver Robert Kubica was the best time setter of a 1:26:927 fastest lap. Nico Rosberg and Button were the next two quickest, while Felipe Massa was fourth best. While Kubica was keeping his car in working order, teammate Vitaly Petrov damaged his Renault slightly, when he rode the curbs after spinning out.

HRT put in more laps in this session as Karun Chandok put in a maximum of 19 laps, while Lotus encountered more hydraulic problems and Virgin continued their woes with the fuel tanks, stating that they would need to completely rebuild the cars chassis.

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