Hamilton edges Raikkonen in China practice By

Brit driver Hamilton signs the cap in Shanghai ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton's bid to become a six-time victor in China got off to a promising start on Friday with the Mercedes driver dominating opening practice on a cool and overcast morning in Shanghai.

The world champion, who trails Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by 17 points after the season's opening two rounds but has won in China a record five times, was the only driver to lap the vast Shanghai International Circuit in under one minute 34 seconds on a chilly and windy Friday morning.

The Briton kicked off the qualifying simulation runs 30 minutes into 90-minute session and set a time of 1 minute 34.179 seconds, and although his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, got within 0.033 seconds, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen sliced the advantage down even further to just 0.007 seconds.

The four-time world champion was only a tenth of a second slower than pacesetter Lewis Hamilton in Shanghai, but that was enough to see the German as low as fourth on the timesheets as the top two teams were locked together.

Vettel holds a 17-point lead over Hamilton coming into the Chinese Grand Prix and the Briton can not afford to fall further behind his rival in the title race this early in the season. And while the Dutchman did clock his best time of the session a lap later, the tyres would have been slightly damaged.

Around half an hour in, Hamilton assumed his position in first place, which he would not surrender for the remainder of the session.

"We completed all the items on our programme and now we need to go through all the data and find performance for tomorrow".

"It's a lot hotter tomorrow, so it will be a challenge to see if we can keep up with them".

"I still believe we are the best team". Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was sixth.

"We saw in the race before that we've been better in general with the harder compounds and that [the softer tyres] is something we're still working on to get more out of".

Kevin Magnussen's Haas was sixth quickest, about where the team is now expected to be after a strong start to the season, but the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth just a day after technical director Andrew Green explained that the vehicle had a fundamental imbalance issue.

"They've been really strong all day", added Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

There was little drama in the session, which was hit by rain in the closing stages. The Saubers, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll rounded out the finishers.

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