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Hamilton rules in the desert

NEWS STORY
31/10/2009

Ahead of today's all-important qualifying session the air temperature is 30 degrees while the track temperature is 33 degrees.

This morning's free practice session reinforced the feeling that McLaren and Brawn are the real pace-setters here, with Jenson Button edging out Lewis Hamilton by just 0.002s.

Surprisingly, both Red Bulls were over 0.7s off the pace, while the BMWs, Sebastien Buemi and Jarno Trulli were thereabouts.

Interestingly, there appears to be little to choose at this stage between the prime (medium) and option (tyres) a situation which will be further complicated by the difference in temperatures as day turn to night.

At the other end of the timesheets, the Ferraris have been disappointing, a fact that is clearly frustrating Luca di Montezemolo who is leading a party of Maranello top brass here. Renault have also been disappointing, as have Williams.

However, this is such a prestigious event, it would come as no surprise to see a rank outsider take pole on fumes, thereby grabbing the all-important headlines in the Sunday newspapers as the world looks upon this amazing new complex. While Renault and Toyota both have history of such tactics, as one looks at the vast Ferrari World building that sits alongside the Yas Marina Circuit, it would surprise no-one to see the Maranello outfit pull a similar stunt.

It is 16:55 local time, sunset is due at 17.43. Wind speed is 4.7 mps, while the humidity is 56 percent.

A very welcome visitor to the McLaren garage is Ron Dennis who 'quit' his role with his team earlier this year in the wake of the lie-gate scandal. Great to see him back.

The lights go green and Alguersuari, who didn't take part in this morning's session, is first out, followed by Kovalainen, Fisichella and a whole load of others, indeed, there are seventeen cars on track almost from the outset. Only Hamilton, Webber and Vettel remain in their garages.

Alguersuari crosses the line at 46.161, however, this is soon beaten by Grosjean and then Raikkonen. The Frenchman is having a difficult weekend and there are serious doubts about his future in F1.

The action is frantic and its almost impossible to keep track as Heidfeld, Fisichella, Alonso, Rosberg and Kubica all take turns at the top of the timesheets.

A 41.916 sees Button go quickest, as Trulli posts 42.015 to go second. Elsewhere, Hamilton heads down the pitlane. Webber and Vettel resolutely sit it out.

As Hamilton begins his first flying lap, Raikkonen goes second to Kubica, only to be split by Trulli who posts 41.683.

Hamilton crosses the line at 41.037 to go quickest, however, teammate Kovalainen spins and subsequently heads straight back to the pits.

Raikkonen improves to second (41.206), as the Red Bull duo finally get to work. Elsewhere, newly elected FIA president Jean Todt meets and greets in the Renault garage under the watching eye of his right-hand man Richard Woods.

Both McLaren drivers on the pace, Hamilton quickest in sector two, Kovalainen in sector one. Hamilton raises the benchmark with a 40.365 while his teammate fails to improve.

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