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Motor : Felipe Massa fastest in practice

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LUCKY ESCAPE: Lewis Hamilton emerges from his badly-damaged car unhurt after crashing during the practice session in Sakhir.
LUCKY ESCAPE: Lewis Hamilton emerges from his badly-damaged car unhurt after crashing during the practice session in Sakhir.

Hamilton crashes out in the afternoon session

SAKHIR (Bahrain): Ferrari dominated Friday’s practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix, re-establishing itself as the team to beat following a disappointing start to the Formula One season.

McLaren, meanwhile, took a big hit when Lewis Hamilton crashed out in the afternoon session.

Felipe Massa outpaced teammate Kimi Raikkonen to take both sessions.

The Brazilian driver showed his determination to put a poor start to the Formula One season behind him, following up a best time of 1 minute, 32.233 seconds with 1:32.393.

Massa comes into the third race on the calendar without a single point following a retirement at the season-opening Australian GP and a spinout at Sepang. Massa won in Bahrain from pole last year. Raikkonen, the reigning world champion, completed 45 laps across both sessions with a best time of 1:32.350 at the 5.412-kilometre circuit to start. His 21st lap of the afternoon session provided a 1:32.447 result.

Tight turns

Hamilton’s wheels locked up as he came around a series of tight turns, and the 23-year-old Briton veered off the track and slid sideways into the protective tires.

Hamilton’s front wheel was snapped, while pieces of his car — including a side mirror — lay strewn in the sand. Hamilton emerged unhurt from his cockpit and ended up fourth in both sessions.

Former Renault teammates Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella got tangled up towards the end of the afternoon session after Alonso tried to pass the Italian on the inside around the first corner. Both drivers came to a stop but could continue racing with neither car appearing damaged.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen was third with 1:32.752 in the afternoon, after finishing fifth in the morning.

BMW Sauber, which is looking to challenge the dominant Ferrari and McLaren teams for its first race win at Bahrain, was more than a second behind Massa in both sections. Robert Kubica led the Germans with seventh and fifth place showings. Nico Rosberg provided Williams with a third-place showing in the morning and sixth in the afternoon, with teammate Kazuki Nakajima rounding out the afternoon top-five. The desert circuit’s long straightway lead-ins put heavy wear on brakes and without the engine braking system — removed as part of 2008’s rules changes — several drivers skidded off line, especially at the final turn.

Massa was one of the first cars out on the desert track, where temperatures touched 35 degrees Celsius. Thursday’s strong Gulf wind had completely dissipated. — AP

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