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Hamilton quickest in FP1 as conditions restrict running

NEWS STORY
13/04/2012

Ahead of today's opening session the air temperature is 14 degrees, while the track temperature is 13 degrees. Following overnight rain the track is still damp in places. Indeed, it is quite overcast.

The big news is that just over an hour ago, the FIA announced that next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled. If nothing else, Bernie Ecclestone can be sure that it will be one of the most widely watched races for some time.

The other big news is that Lewis Hamilton has incurred a five-place grid penalty after McLaren opted to change the gearbox in his MP4-27, while the stewards have dismissed protest of Mercedes controversial rear wing.

Jules Bianchi is in Paul di Resta's Force India this morning, while Valtteri Bottas is at the wheel of Bruno Senna's Williams, Giedo Van der Garde replaces Vitaly Petrov.

Red Bull is using today to run its two cars in different configurations, Vettel, in particular, using the old spec exhaust layout as the Austrian outfit looks to make up for its slow start to the season.

The lights go green and moments later Kovalainen takes to the track, followed by Kobayashi, Van der Garde, Glock, Karthikeyan and Pic. Most drivers are on inters though the Caterham drivers are on full wets, Kovalainen complaining that the track is "too dry for wets".

Four minutes into the session all but Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen have been out. Massa is the only driver to use dry (hard) tyres.

Ten minutes into the session everyone but Hamilton has been out, but it will be a while before we see anyone post a time.

Despite the three week gap between races some cars have a lot more updates than normal - the Lotus being one of the most updated cars, featuring a new floor, front wing, track rods, engine covers and barge boards.

Kobayashi is back on track, as is Glock, both on inters, while Hamilton has a sensor device on his McLaren, the sort normally seen during testing.

Following a few minutes of total inactivity, Schumacher is back on track, the German on the prime (medium) rubber. As the Mercedes driver returns to the pits, Webber heads down the pitlane.

Webber posts the first time of the weekend, the Australian crossing the line at 1:44.542. Elsewhere, Karthikeyan locks up at the hairpin, going on to post a 57.543.

As Webber improves to 39.558, countryman Ricciardo goes second (42.763), ahead of Vergne and Karthikeyan.

Grosjean splits the Australian duo with a 41.748, as Massa begins his first flying lap of the weekend. The rain, which had previously consisted of a few random spots, increases in intensity, causing the Ferrari driver to run wide in Turn 10.

A 42.038 sees Maldonado go third as the Toro Rosso crew swarms over Vergne's car which appears to have a problem.

As Massa posts 44.022 and Rosberg 46.932, Vettel heads down the pitlane. Elsewhere, Grosjean runs wide, the mixed conditions leaving the track greasy and catching out the very best of them.

At half-time, there are just ten names on the timesheets. Webber leads Grosjean, Maldonado, Ricciardo, Kovalainen, Massa, Rosberg, de la Rosa, Vergne and Karthikeyan.

Although the rain has eased off, the track condition is such that the drivers feel it best to sit it out.

With 33:10 on the clock, Alonso heads down the pitlane, followed by Hulkenberg.

Kobayashi and Glock also take to the track and while conditions remain difficult, to put it mildly, Alonso stays out.

As Alonso performs a pit stop, his team checking out the various new aero components, before returning to the track, Raikkonen is also back at work, the Finn subsequently posting a 51.541 to go tenth (of eleven).

"The rear wing is not behaving properly," Raikkonen is told, "please use manual switch". Earlier in the session, the Finn returned to the pits with his DRS stuck wide open.

Schumacher goes tenth with a 48.384, the German almost 9s off Webber's time, which was set in much better conditions.

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