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Usual suspects quickest in Korea
Another Red Bull versus Mercedes battle looms large on the horizon this weekend after the two teams dominated first practice for the Korean Grand Prix.
At the end of the 90 minutes, in which Kimi Raikkonen ploughed his Lotus into a tyre barrier, Lewis Hamilton narrowly edged reigning triple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Only three drivers this year have qualified on pole, with Vettel and Hamilton claiming five apiece and Nico Rosberg three, and at this early stage it appears unlikely the trio will be threatened.
Trailing Vettel by 91 points in the championship standings, Hamilton is simply looking for another win or two to see out the season.
In his Mercedes around the near-deserted Korea International Circuit, the 28-year-old Briton set a time of one minute 39.630secs.
With only the medium tyres used in the session, with the option this weekend being the far quicker supersoft compound, Vettel came close to knocking Hamilton off top spot at the death.
The 26-year-old German, however, had to settled for the second quickest time, finishing 0.037secs adrift in his Red Bull.
Team-mate Mark Webber was fractionally off the pace of the lead duo, with the Australian 0.186secs down, followed by Rosberg who was half a second behind in his Mercedes.
As for the rest of the field, it was McLaren's Jenson Button leading the way with one of his best practice showings of the year as he was 0.585secs behind his former team-mate.
As for Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the only realistic challenger to Vettel with a 60-point gap between the duo, the Spaniard finished sixth quickest and 0.744secs down.
Lotus' Romain Grosjean was the only other driver within a second of Hamilton, with team-mate Raikkonen eighth fastest, but 1.047secs off the pace.
The Finn, however, left his mechanics facing a difficult lunch break after losing control of his car heading into the final turn at the top of the start-finish straight.
Sliding sideways under full lock, Raikkonen slammed into a tyre barrier, causing considerable damage.
The 33-year-old, who has been struggling with a back problem of late that almost forced him out of the Singapore Grand Prix, is likely to have compounded that particular issue.
McLaren's Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa in his Ferrari completed the top 10, the latter 1.250secs down.
James Calado, enjoying another reserve outing for Force India in place of Paul Di Resta, was down in 18th and 3.378secs adrift, with team-mate Adrian Sutil 1.5secs quicker.
Marussia's Max Chilton was 21st and 4.470secs behind Hamilton.