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Motor Racing: Hamilton tops both practices for Spanish Grand Prix

A happy Lewis Hamilton topped the times in both sessions on Friday as he and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg dominated opening practice for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.

BARCELONA, Spain: A happy Lewis Hamilton topped the times in both sessions on Friday as he and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg dominated opening practice for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.

The Mercedes pair were fastest overall at the end of the afternoon with Hamilton setting the pace and reveling in his form and his role as a settled senior member of the German outfit.

His speed, he said, showed he was in "a good place".

He said: "It really means a lot to me to feel that I am an integral part of this team and I love the huge energy that goes into the car and working with the engineers.

"It gives me a really special feeling. These guys, the engineers, they can do anything and it is up to us to help by 'steering the bubble' and me and Nico, we do it together."

As he bids for his first Spanish Grand Prix triumph this weekend after three consecutive victories, Hamilton said he was aiming to grab the 34th pole of his career and make sure he can stay out of trouble with back-markers on a circuit where it is difficult to overtake easily.

"Pole is always important, but it is especially so here because it so difficult to get past people, especially those with a Mercedes engine!"

The smiling 29-year-old Briton added that he felt "pleasantly surprised" by the pace of his car in the afternoon practice after making changes to his set-up following a less-satisfying morning, when he was also fastest.

The morning session saw Rosberg, who leads the championship thanks to winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and then finishing second behind Hamilton three times, struggle with engine problems.

In the afternoon, however, Hamilton stayed on top, lapping nearly half a second faster than his Mercedes team-mate and showing that, in his second full season with the team after leaving McLaren, he is fully settled and fast.

Defending four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel was reduced to only four laps early in the morning session after his Red Bull car was halted by electrical problems. This required a replacement of the wiring loom and he missed the afternoon session entirely.

Hamilton clocked a best lap of one minute and 25.524 seconds in his Mercedes before switching to an impressive demonstration of speed on a long 'race spec' run. German Rosberg's best time was 1:25.973.

Hamilton proved he has lost little of his massive performance advantage over his rivals despite all the teams arriving in Spain with a raft of upgrades for their cars.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo wound up third fastest for Red Bull, nine-tenths of a second slower than 2008 champion Hamilton.

He was the only man to be less than a second a lap adrift of the pace-setter who, after three straight wins, is seeking to claim his first Spanish Grand Prix triumph.

The Ferrari pairing of two-time champion and local hero Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Finn Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, took fourth and fifth places, the Italian team bidding to win a race for the first time since Alonso triumphed on home soil a year ago.

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