Honours even in first skirmish of title duel

Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen engaged in the first round of their fight for the 2008 World Championship in Melbourne's Albert Park yesterday, and emerged with the honours pretty much even as they were separated by just a 10th of a second after the first two practice sessions. Raikkonen, the reigning world champion, took his Ferrari round in 1min 26.461secs in the morning, on a track that was still "green" and slippery. Hamilton was second.

When the 40C temperatures were supplemented by a strong breeze in the afternoon, Hamilton was the fastest with 1min 26.559secs, with Raikkonen sixth. The indications are that McLaren and Ferrari will be evenly matched this season. Their respective team-mates, Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen, backed them strongly. Massa was third overall with 1min 26.640secs, Kovalainen fourth with 1min 26.683secs.

"It's great to be back racing and being here in Melbourne where I started my Formula One career only a year ago," Hamilton said. "It's always a special feeling to go out of the garage for the first time in practice at the start of a new season. There was some good progress with the car, and we made the best use of the ever-improving track conditions. However, our main opposition looks strong, but it's still too early to tell exactly where we are in comparison."

Raikkonen was less happy. "The car was good in the morning," the Finn said, "but I was not happy with the set-up this afternoon as the conditions were changing all the time as the track got grippier. We have some work to do overnight."

With electronic driver aids such as traction control and engine braking now banned, there was more evidence of cars sliding around, and rookie Nelson Piquet Jnr caused the morning session to be stopped briefly after spinning his Renault. He finished the day 19th, 1.2secs slower than team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Besides the Ferraris and McLarens, the stars were the Red Bulls of Mark Webber, who finished second in the afternoon on 1min 27.473secs after being fastest for a long time, and David Coulthard, who had problems in the morning before setting fifth fastest lap in the afternoon. "We lost time in the first session due to a gearbox problem, so we had a lot of ground to make up, which is frustrating after our strong reliability during winter testing," the Scot said. "We had a busy programme to complete, but we managed to get through it and make up some time."

Behind the scenes, argument continued to rage over the desirability of renewing the contract for the grand prix when it expires in three years' time. Opinion is divided; supporters argue that the race is good for the local economy, while critics say Bernie Ecclestone's latest financial demands, allied to a call for a 7pm floodlit event, are unrealistic.

McLaren have terminated the employment contract of Mike Coughlan, the disgraced chief designer who was at the centre of last year's "Stepneygate" spy scandal in which he was found guilty of handling Ferrari intellectual property. He has been suspended from his role since police discovered stolen Ferrari documents in his house in Bramley last July.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas