Hamilton fastest in German GP practice

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The Independent Online

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was fastest in today's practice for the German Grand Prix, while Red Bull's and Brawn GP's drivers were again among the leaders.

Defending Formula One champion Hamilton set a fastest lap of 1 minute, 32.149 seconds around the Nuerburgring circuit to lead Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and overall leader Jenson Button of Brawn.

Vettel, coming off his second victory of the season at Silverstone, was strong in the cold, slippery conditions to set a best lap of 1:22.331, which was less than two-hundreths of a second faster than Button, who leads the championship standings with 64 points.

Button has won six of the first eight races of the season, but Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 at the British GP with teammate Mark Webber to spark hopes of a championship fight to the close.

Vettel, whose first session was cut short by a car problem, has 39 points and Webber has 35.5.

Webber had the day's fourth fastest lap — 1:32.480 — and Jarno Trulli of Toyota had a good showing to sit fifth.

Rubens Barrichello — Button's closest challenger in the overall standings with 41 points — was just over half a second off of Hamilton's pace in his Brawn GP. The Brazilian finished seventh, one place ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso.

The top 13 cars finished within a second of Hamilton's pace in cool, autumn-like conditions that saw a number of cars slide off at the chicane.

Conditions are expected to dry up for Saturday's qualifying although showers are expected for Sunday's 60-lap race. That could favor Vettel, who has notched two of his three career victories in wet conditions.