Formula One: Hamilton fastest in Malaysia practice

Formula One: Hamilton fastest in Malaysia practice

SEPANG, Malaysia - Lewis Hamilton made himself the early favourite at the Malaysian Grand Prix when he shrugged off his mechanical failure in Melbourne to top the timesheets in opening practice on Friday.

The British Mercedes driver lapped the scorching hot, 5.5 kilometre (3.4 miles) Sepang circuit with the leading time of 1min 40.691sec in a 90-minute run-out which could set the tone for the race weekend.

Late in a session where several drivers struggled for grip, 2008 world champion Hamilton became one of those to find gravel when he locked up his front wheels in consecutive corners and went off the track.

"I just ran a bit wide," he told his team.

Hamilton stormed to pole position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but he lasted just a handful of laps before a misfiring cylinder ended his race, as his team-mate Nico Rosberg enjoyed a commanding win.

Ferrari's returning former world champion Kimi Raikkonen was seventh in Melbourne but he enjoyed an encouraging session on Friday as he timed second quickest, 15 hundredths behind Hamilton.

Rosberg was third fastest ahead of Jenson Button and his McLaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen, on a hot morning with track temperatures at 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit).

Four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was seventh but he completed only nine laps, one of the fewest among all drivers. Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo did 20 laps and was 12th.

Felipe Massa had the most spectacular mishap when he went sideways in his Williams, one of a number of spins with Sauber's Adrian Sutil and Caterham's Marcus Ericsson also losing control at different stages.

Romain Grosjean, who failed to finish in Australia, had an unpromising start when his Lotus stopped in the first half-hour and had to be pushed off the track.

McLaren rookie Magnussen, who sensationally reached the podium in Melbourne in his first ever F1 race, lost power with about 30 minutes remaining and trundled into the pitlane.

Pastor Maldonado spent most of the session in the garage and when he finally emerged, his Lotus lasted less than a lap before it started spewing smoke and ended up being pushed back to the pits.

Kamui Kobayashi, victim of a brake failure when he ploughed into Felipe Massa's Williams at the first corner in Melbourne, managed just five laps in his Caterham.

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