McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton claimed his car was back to its 2008 championship-winning best after leading Friday’s practice at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton set the best time of the day, ahead of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. Their teammates, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher, were third and fourth fastest.

“It’s reminiscent of 2008 kind of balance, and hopefully that will enable us to be competitive on Saturday in qualifying,” Hamilton said, recalling his Formula One title-winning year.

After botched qualifying sessions in Australia and Malaysia, Hamilton was eyeing a front-row grid spot and a chance to claim his first win of the season.

“In the past two races, our race pace was good but we had to come from too far back,” Hamilton said. “Ideally tomorrow we’d like to get into Q3 and have a top five start which will enable us to have a competitive run for the win.”

The Red Bull cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were fifth and sixth Friday, though their pace in the longer runs was similar to McLaren. The team is aiming for back-to-back 1—2 finishes, both this season and in China.

“It looks very close. The Mercedes look competitive, as well as the McLarens and Ferraris,” Vettel said. “It will be tight tomorrow, but we will see.”

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