F1 2010 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has confessed that 'totalling' his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 during the opening practice session for this weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was not his proudest moment, and whilst he admits the team's exhaust-blown rear end 'still isn't perfect, he is hopeful of making positive progress ahead of qualifying.

Hamilton completed a grand total of just 18 laps around the Baden-W?rttemberg circuit - in contrast to 52 for team-mate and title-winning successor Jenson Button - but the British star recovered well from his early indiscretion to post the seventh-quickest time during the afternoon as the track dried out, eight spots and more than seven tenths of a second ahead of his countryman.

"Obviously I damaged the car quite heavily this morning," acknowledged the 25-year-old. "It was very slippery and I hit the limiter coming out of Turn Three, shifted gear which spun the wheels, and had an oversteer moment. I tried to correct it and that put me onto the grass, where I was just a passenger.

"The accident took all four corners off the car, so I was a little bit upset with myself. The guys work so hard during the week to get the car ready, and then you get to the track, do a few laps and total the car, which isn't great. It was a huge amount of work for the guys too, but they've just been phenomenal.

"It was positive to get back out there and overcome the difficulties I had in the morning. We missed the afternoon's rain too, which was good. Now I have a decent idea of where the car is, so hopefully we can make some positive set-up changes overnight.

"The new blown diffuser still isn't perfect - it's not something you can just put on the car and drive with the same balance that you had before; you've got to alter the balance and modify your driving style. We're still working on it, but there's potential there."

"This morning was useful, because there's a possibility of more rain tomorrow, but we didn't have a very good set-up for FP1 in the wet," added Button, who nevertheless lapped third-quickest when the heavens opened and went on to undertake the lion's share of set-up work in the afternoon following Hamilton's 'off'. "We changed the car over lunch, and I was much happier with the balance this afternoon.

"As always, we have to do things to make the car better. The long-run pace is pretty reasonable - I think we were expecting more issues with graining on the option [tyre], but it didn't seem to be a big issue. Hopefully, tomorrow's morning session will be dry so we can focus on some useful set-up work.

"Obviously, Lewis had a problem this morning, so I had a busy afternoon running through our long-run programme in FP2.The new floor appears to be working well. We still need to look at the data to see how much of an improvement it's giving us, but there's no negative to it, which is great."

Whilst McLaren continues to lead both championship tables, Red Bull Racing continues to have the fastest car in the field - on paper, at least, if not always reflected in the final results - and a resurgent Ferrari is closing in fast. The Woking-based outfit's team principal Martin Whitmarsh conceded that ground needs to be made up prior to qualifying on Saturday.

"Today's two sessions presented difficult and changeable conditions in which to conduct the necessary tests, but we nonetheless gathered a lot of useful data that will hopefully give us good direction throughout the rest of the weekend," reported the Englishman.

"Clearly, Lewis' small error this morning caused damage to his car that took a while to repair, thereby limiting his running this afternoon. In the end he went out with just 13 minutes left, and did just one run on the prime tyre. Nonetheless, he posted the seventh-fastest lap of the session and remains well placed to do a solid job tomorrow.

"This afternoon, Jenson knuckled down to a disciplined programme of long running on heavy fuel loads, concentrating on race durability. We feel we have decent pace here - and, as I say, having concentrated largely on long running on heavy fuel loads today, we will focus on qualifying practice tomorrow morning."

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