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Hamilton continues to set Shanghai pace

NEWS STORY
17/10/2008

Ahead of today's second free practice session, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, and the track temperature is 29 degrees. It remains mainly overcast, with the sun attempting to break through in a few places.

The lights go green and it is Piquet who leads the way, followed by the BMWs, Alonso, Bourdais, Button and Trulli.

We saw a lot of drivers running wide this morning, a combination of the greasy track surface and the long sweeping turns which are hard on the tyres. Speaking of tyres, the softer medium compound made an appearance this morning, drivers sticking with the harder compound.

In no time at all, there are eight names on the timesheets, with Trulli leading the way, ahead of Alonso, Bourdais and Kubica. However, it isn't long before this morning's pace-setter, Hamilton, takes his place at the top of the timesheets, crossing the line at 36.718.

Having been given access (once) to McLaren's radio, this afternoon we are given a rare glimpse into Ferrari's pit to car communications. Raikkonen is told that his programme is four timed laps. All but Massa are on track.

We've just been informed that the Chinese couple taking pictures in the pitlane earlier were Jet Li and his wife. Having never seen Mr Li or any of his films we'll just have to go along with it.

Hamilton improves with a 36.101, as Vettel goes second, ahead of Glock, Trulli and Alonso. Raikkonen goes tenth with a 37.779, before improving to seventh (37.333). Massa leaves the pits.

On his first flying lap, Massa goes seventh with a 37.310, bumping his teammate down to eighth. However, next time around the Finn posts 37.164 to go sixth.

It's a McLaren 1-2 as Kovalainen posts 36.797 to go second. Meanwhile, once again, Hamilton is the only driver, thus far, to break the 1:35s barrier.

At the end of the pitlane, Kubica waits for an inordinate amount of time before performing a practice start. Meanwhile, Massa waits patiently behind him.

The Toyotas, which were off the pace this morning, are looking much better in this session, Trulli, the first driver to appear on softs (medium) splits the McLarens with a 36.630. Meanwhile, Rosberg goes fifth (36.978).

Bourdais (soft) goes seventh with a 37.131, while Webber (soft) fails to improve on 37.506 and remains thirteenth.

Replay shows Alonso (soft) running wide in the final corner (Turn 16), one of several turns that is catching drivers out today. Another replay shows Bourdais (soft) running wide and across the gravel at Turn 13.

A 36.529 sees Bourdais improve to second, the Frenchman posting 36.529, still 0.779s off Hamilton's pace.

Speaking of Hamilton, the World Championship leader is back on track, but sticking with the harder compound.

Rosberg (soft) improves to third (36.556), as Raikkonen spins. Meanwhile, Kubica (softs) posts personal bests in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 36.775 to go sixth.

Trulli (soft) improves to second with a 36.159, still almost 0.5s off Hamilton's time. The McLaren driver must have been running on fumes of fumes.

As Heidfeld (soft) goes ninth with a 36.813), Raikkonen continues his run, like his teammate, still to try the softs. Elsewhere, Bourdais goes wide again.

At half-time, it's: Hamilton, Trulli, Bourdais, Rosberg, Glock, Massa, Raikkonen, Kubica, Kovalainen and Heidfeld. Alonso has completed the most laps, but remains twelfth, 1.39s off Hamilton's pace.

Vettel (hard) kicks up a great cloud of dust as he runs wide in Turn 13. Meanwhile, Hamilton is back on track, on softs.

His first lap is a 36.472, while the first sector of his next lap sees him 0.3s off the pace.

Nakajima (soft) posts a personal best in the first sector, and again in the second. At the line, it's 36.975, which sees him improve from thirteenth to twelfth.

Now it's Raikkonen on softs, the Finn seeking to improve on 36.762, and seventh on the timesheets. He improves, but it's minimal, crossing the line at 36.733. Elsewhere, Nakajima spins.

With Raikkonen failing to improve, Sixth-placed Massa takes to the track on softs. The Brazilian immediately posts a personal best in the first sector, but loses ground in the second. Nonetheless, he posts 36.583 to move up to fifth.

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