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Schumacher quickest in Shanghai
Seven-times champion Michael Schumacher denied Lewis Hamilton a practice double ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
In changeable conditions in the first 90-minute session at the Shanghai International Circuit, Hamilton finished quickest with a lap at the death a second quicker than his rivals with a time of one minute 37.106secs. The McLaren star had bided his time, however, waiting until the closing stages on a grey, cold, damp morning before lighting up the track with the three fastest sectors.
There should have been a virtual repeat in the second session as Hamilton chased down Schumacher's leading time as he was quickest in the first two sectors, but a small mistake in the third saw the 27-year-old finish 0.172secs adrift of Mercedes' Schumacher who topped the timesheet in 1:35.973.
At this stage, and bearing in mind Friday times often fail to reflect the true picture, Hamilton is looking strong ahead of qualifying. The Briton knows, however, he will need to pull out all the stops on Saturday as he faces a gearbox change, and with it the penalty of a drop of five places on the grid.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was at least in close attendance to the frontrunning duo, finishing 0.187secs behind Schumacher and just 0.015secs adrift of Hamilton.
There was then a gap to Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber who was just under half-a-second down, with Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes 0.644secs off the pace of his team-mate.
Jenson Button seemingly struggled to get any heat into his front tyres in particular and had to settle for sixth quickest, nearly three quarters of a second behind Schumacher.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi was seventh, followed by a creditable effort from Force India's Paul di Resta who was forced to make way for reserve driver Jules Bianchi in the first session.
The Scot, however, returned strongly in session two to wind up a second down in eighth, yet 0.225secs ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg who had enjoyed the benefit of running in FP1.
Championship leader Fernando Alonso completed the top 10, but in a Ferrari that clearly seems to be lacking in pace again compared to their rivals, finishing a second up on team-mate Felipe Massa who could only manage 17th.