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Korean GP: Lewis Hamilton sets practice one pace for McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea 2012Lewis Hamilton grabbed the top spot from Fernando Alonso in the closing stages of first practice for the Korean Grand Prix.

Alonso's Ferrari had occupied first place for the majority of the session.

Ahead of a crucial race for his title hopes following his Suzuka first-lap exit, the Formula 1 championship leader put himself in front early on and then kept improving his time, eventually reaching a 1m39.450s.

With the field then switching to longer runs for the final half hour, it looked unlikely that Alonso would be beaten.

But four minutes from the end, Hamilton produced a 1m39.280s a long way into a stint to depose the Ferrari.

His strong pace continued, and as the chequered flag flew, Hamilton threw in a 1m39.148s on his 23rd lap of the run to give McLaren Friday morning honours by 0.302 seconds.

Red Bull's Mark Webber also made a late improvement, but it was not sufficient to get him above third.

His team-mate Sebastian Vettel was fifth, behind the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. The Red Bulls both appeared stymied by heavy traffic at the end of the session - nearly tripping over each other at one point.

Mercedes duo Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were next up, despite Schumacher heading to the garage for a while as he was unhappy with the feeling of the car.

While Romain Grosjean took eighth, his Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was 11th in the revised version of the car, featuring a Coanda-style exhaust among other updates.

The final top 10 spots went to Paul di Resta's Force India and Jenson Button's McLaren.

Jules Bianchi was the best of the Friday drivers in 13th place in Nico Hulkenberg's Force India.

Williams's Valtteri Bottas was back in 18th after a long spell in the pits having various major components changed to allow back to back tests with updated parts.

Giedo van der Garde returned to the Caterham cockpit and was 22nd despite a violent trip over a kerb.

Most drivers completed the session without drama, although Timo Glock was limited to 13 laps as his Marussia required attention to its steering.

Pos  Driver               Car                   Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes      1m39.148s            23
 2.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari               1m39.450s  + 0.302s  21
 3.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault      1m39.575s  + 0.427s  21
 4.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1m39.854s  + 0.706s  23
 5.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault      1m40.088s  + 0.940s  21
 6.  Michael Schumacher   Mercedes              1m40.221s  + 1.073s  21
 7.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes              1m40.396s  + 1.248s  24
 8.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault         1m40.422s  + 1.274s  22
 9.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes  1m40.440s  + 1.292s  19
10.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes      1m40.480s  + 1.332s  21
11.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault         1m40.929s  + 1.781s  14
12.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault      1m41.048s  + 1.900s  25
13.  Jules Bianchi        Force India-Mercedes  1m41.140s  + 1.992s  21
14.  Kamui Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari        1m41.220s  + 2.072s  19
15.  Sergio Perez         Sauber-Ferrari        1m41.514s  + 2.366s  20
16.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m41.596s  + 2.448s  23
17.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m42.021s  + 2.873s  25
18.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Renault      1m42.027s  + 2.879s  23
19.  Heikki Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault      1m42.104s  + 2.956s  24
20.  Timo Glock           Marussia-Cosworth     1m42.175s  + 3.027s  13
21.  Charles Pic          Marussia-Cosworth     1m42.706s  + 3.558s  22
22.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault      1m42.820s  + 3.672s  19
23.  Pedro de la Rosa     HRT-Cosworth          1m44.517s  + 5.369s  23
24.  Dani Clos            HRT-Cosworth          1m45.735s  + 6.587s  22

All timing unofficial
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