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Hamilton sets pace ahead of Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton holds a four-point championship lead over Vettel. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton posted a record-breaking lap in final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix as New Zealander Brendon Hartley crashed out at 160mph.

Hamilton, who holds a four-point championship lead over Sebastian Vettel, ended Friday's final session at the opening leg of the European season on top of the timesheets.

And the 33-year-old defending champion led the way once more on Saturday morning with a blistering effort of one minute and 17.281 seconds.

Hamilton has not been on pole position since the opening round in Australia, but he will head into qualifying later on today as favourite to secure the front slot on the grid.

Hamilton edged out his team-mate Valtteri Bottas by just 0.013 seconds with Mercedes appearing to hold the edge over Ferrari at a circuit where they have performed well in recent seasons.

Vettel was third in the order, a quarter-of-a-second down on Hamilton, with the German's Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth.

The one-hour session was brought to a premature end after Hartley crashed out in the closing moments.

The 28-year-old lost control of his car on entry to the high-speed Turn 9, and while he reported he was unhurt in the smash, he appeared to be sporting a limp as he walked away from the incident.

Hamilton heads the pack in Chinese Grand Prix practice

Defending champion Hamilton is currently 17 points adrift of Vettel. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton completed a practice double on Friday as he bids to get his Formula One championship charge back on track in China.

Hamilton, who will head into Sunday's race 17 points adrift of Sebastian Vettel, ended both sessions at the top of the order after delivering an ominous warning to his rivals.

But Hamilton's slim advantage over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at an overcast Shanghai International Circuit suggests the Mercedes driver may not have it all his own way this weekend.

While defending champion Hamilton was a third of a second clear of Raikkonen in the day's opening running, the margin at the conclusion of the second session stood at only seven-thousandths.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, under pressure following a middling display in Bahrain a week ago, was third, just 0.033 sec off the pace, while Vettel was also only one-tenth down.

As both Mercedes and Ferrari cars seemingly teed up a shoot-out for pole position on Saturday, Max Verstappen finished fifth in the order.

The 20-year-old Dutchman, who revealed on Thursday that he will not adapt his aggressive style despite his collision with Hamilton in Bahrain, spun off in Friday's opening session.

Verstappen clipped the apex at the last bend and slid off into the gravel. He nursed his Red Bull back on to the circuit and escaped without damage.

Verstappen's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who retired from the Bahrain Grand Prix following an electrical issue, was ninth in the order.


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