Kimi Raikkonen headed the usual quartet at the head of the timesheets in opening practice for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, but less than a couple of tenths covered the Ferrari and McLaren drivers.

While Williams' Nico Rosberg eventually joined the leading foursome in the 1min 37secs bracket, he was fully half a second shy of Lewis Hamilton's fourth spot, with the Briton following Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in not running on the softer of Bridgestone's two tyre options.

Massa paced the middle part of the 90-minute session, which was run in dry and warm conditions, but was eventually usurped by Hamilton, before the Briton lost out to Raikkonen's 1min 37.024secs effort. Hamilton was also deposed by both team-mate Alonso and the second Ferrari by the chequered flag, ending the morning 0.185secs adrift of Raikkonen and with a slightly shaken McLaren to show for his efforts after an off at the very end of the session, Massa also ran off the road in the closing minutes but, like Hamilton, was able to rejoin with the car undamaged.

Rosberg leapt into fifth spot after bolting on the softer rubber, pushing BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica back to sixth. The second BMW, of Nick Heidfeld, was forced to sit out the middle part of the session after suffering a gearbox oil leak, but was able to return late on after concerted efforts from its driver to help push it back to the pits. Heidfeld ended the morning in tenth spot, separated from his team-mate by Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Kazuki Nakajima, who returned to Williams' testing strength despite GP2 testing starting at Jerez.

Trulli had been on course to land 'best of the rest' honours before late improvements from Rosberg and Kubica, while Toyota team-mate Ralf Schumacher began his farewell appearances for the Japanese manufacturer in twelfth spot, behind Fuji podium visitor Heikki Kovalainen.

Britons David Coulthard and Jenson Button were next up - the Honda driver fresh from a media dinner where he regaled guests with tales of his delight at the handling of his wingless RA107 in Japan - with Rubens Barrichello getting the second works car ahead of Takuma Sato in 15th.

After the joy of landing a maiden point in Japan, Spyker found itself back at the rear of the pack, where Sakon Yamamoto headed Adrian Sutil by 0.023secs.

 

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