Hamilton tops first practice in Japan

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton led the way at the end of a quiet first practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix

Hamilton tops first practice in Japan

In dry and sunny conditions at Fuji, Hamilton beat title rival Felipe Massa (Ferrari) to first position by 0.153 seconds, with their respective teammates Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen completing the top four.

The session got off to a leisurely start, with only home team Toyota coming out to entertain the fans early on.

Raikkonen was the first of the major contenders to emerge, setting his first flying lap half an hour into the session, although a lock-up and the need to get around Rubens Barrichello's Honda on his first lap meant he needed two attempts to claim first place.

The Finn briefly relinquished the top spot to Hamilton shortly afterwards, but moved back ahead before the end of his run as the McLaren lost time with a trip over the Turn 1 run-off area.

Hamilton took charge when he rejoined 20 minutes later, lapping in 1:19.062 to beat Raikkonen by three tenths of a second.

Massa then leapt to second, just 0.001 seconds behind Hamilton, but that remarkably close situation only lasted a few moments before Hamilton improved to a 1:18.910 - which would stand as the best lap of the morning as no-one gained time on the final runs.

Kovalainen improved to third on his second run, with Raikkonen falling to fourth as his early time proved to be his best of the session.

Fernando Alonso (Renault) was the main challenger to McLaren and Ferrari all morning and duly ended up fifth, ahead of his teammate Nelson Piquet.

Toro Rosso continued their recent strong form with Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais in seventh and ninth positions, split by Robert Kubica's BMW.

Local favourite Kazuki Nakajima languished at the foot of the times until the closing moments, when he leapt up to 10th for Williams.

His improvement edged Adrian Sutil's Force India out of the top ten, as the German showed promising form at the track where he scored his only point to date last year.

Circuit owners Toyota had a disappointing start to the weekend, with early pace-setters Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock ultimately dropping to 15th and 18th respectively.

The session saw very little incident bar a few trips across the ample asphalt run-off areas and a half spin at Turn 10 by BMW's Nick Heidfeld.

Pos  Driver        Team                     Time              Laps
 1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes    (B)   1:18.910 +         23
 2.  Massa         Ferrari             (B)   1:19.063 + 0.153   24
 3.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes    (B)   1:19.279 + 0.369   20
 4.  Raikkonen     Ferrari             (B)   1:19.399 + 0.489   31
 5.  Alonso        Renault             (B)   1:19.473 + 0.563   30
 6.  Piquet        Renault             (B)   1:19.743 + 0.833   35
 7.  Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari  (B)   1:20.121 + 1.211   30
 8.  Kubica        BMW Sauber          (B)   1:20.160 + 1.250   26
 9.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari  (B)   1:20.182 + 1.272   34
10.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota     (B)   1:20.217 + 1.307   25
11.  Sutil         Force India-Ferrari (B)   1:20.288 + 1.378   26
12.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota     (B)   1:20.350 + 1.440   28
13.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault    (B)   1:20.620 + 1.710   24
14.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber          (B)   1:20.628 + 1.718   23
15.  Trulli        Toyota              (B)   1:20.657 + 1.747   33
16.  Barrichello   Honda               (B)   1:20.753 + 1.843   32
17.  Button        Honda               (B)   1:20.769 + 1.859   27
18.  Glock         Toyota              (B)   1:20.823 + 1.913   37
19.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault    (B)   1:20.905 + 1.995   24
20.  Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari (B)   1:21.014 + 2.104   28

All timing unofficial
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