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Hamilton and Mercedes showing no signs of slowing after opening Spanish Grand Prix practice

Electrical problem leaves frustrated Vettel stranded on side of the track

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in action during the second practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on May 9, 2014. Srdjan Suki / EPA
British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in action during the second practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on May 9, 2014. Srdjan Suki / EPA

MONTMELO, SPAIN // Sebastian Vettel’s practice session at the Spanish Grand Prix ended with the four-time defending Formula One champion hitching a ride on a scooter after his car failed.

Lewis Hamilton had no such problems, finishing Friday’s opening day of practice with the top times from both training sessions as the dominating Mercedes team showed no signs of slowing down. The British driver is looking for his fourth consecutive win this season.

Mercedes teammate and F1 points leader Nico Rosberg was right behind, setting the afternoon’s second-best time after his crew fixed a cooling issue.

Vettel was running through his fifth lap on the sunny and dry 5.4-kilometre Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when his Red Bull came to a halt. He then helped push his RB10 out of the path of his rivals before a group of fans gathered at the fence to take photographs of the champion using a fire extinguisher on the rear of his malfunctioning car.

After Vettel was whisked back to the paddock on the back of a scooter, Hamilton clocked the fastest lap time in the opening session and then bettered that by almost 1.5 seconds in the afternoon with a mark of 1 minute, 25.524 seconds.

Red Bull said an electrical problem that “damaged the wiring” of Vettel’s car meant he could not return for the afternoon practice session. That left Vettel with only one session today before qualifying.

“It’s a small failure, but a big consequence,” Vettel said.

Red Bull gave Vettel’s car an older chassis in a move the German called a “sanity check” to try to find an elusive answer to his car’s lack of pace.

Vettel is having his worst season at Red Bull, with only one podium finish so far, and he sits in a distant fifth in the standings. He even had to let new teammate Daniel Ricciardo pass him twice during the past two races.

Hamilton trails Rosberg by four points, despite winning the last three races in front of his teammate. The pair have won all four races and taken all four pole positions this year.

Hamilton has not lost a step after a three-week break and showed that the other teams have yet to make headway despite their upgrades for the start of the season’s run of European events.

“It’s been a great day today and I’m happy to be back in the car after what feels like quite a long break,” Hamilton said. “Our two practice sessions today went very smoothly. In fact, I’ve not had such a good Friday for a very long time.”

As he bids for his first Spanish Grand Prix triumph this weekend, Hamilton said he was aiming to grab the 34th pole of his career and make sure he can stay out of trouble with back-markers on a circuit where it is difficult to pass easily.

“Pole is always important, but it is especially so here, because it so difficult to get past people, especially those with a Mercedes engine,” he said.

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