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Hamilton top in Malaysian practice tests

LEWIS Hamilton completed a practice hat-trick as Mercedes power locked out the first four positions in today's second session for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hamilton's time of one minute 38.021secs posted in the initial 90 -minute outing at the Sepang International Circuit remained good enough to lead the way. Hamilton was only marginally slower in the afternoon by 0.151secs as the teams opted for longer runs rather than going for outright pace.

But it is now three in a row for Hamilton in his McLaren as he was also quickest in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix last weekend prior to grabbing pole for that event at Melbourne's Albert Park.

It was not all plain sailing for the Briton, however, as he aims to rebound from the disappointment he so publicly displayed on Sunday when he could only finish third behind team-mate Jenson Button and reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel.

There were a couple of minor offs, but arguably only as Hamilton found the limits of the track in tandem with becoming accustomed to the Pirelli tyres as a number of drivers complained of a lack of grip in the afternoon compared to the morning. Ominously for the rest of the field, though, the Mercedes engine appears strong as the 27-year-old was followed by Michael Schumacher for the works team, the seven-times champion trailing by 0.361secs.

Button, who suffered a KERS failure that curtailed his running in the morning to just 15 laps, finished third, just two thousandths of a second behind Schumacher, whilst Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was fourth on the timesheet, just over half a second off Hamilton.

The best of the rest was Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso, whilst with a new and seemingly improved front wing, Fernando Alonso elevated his Ferrari up to sixth, 0.719secs off the pace. As for the Red Bulls, they appear to be struggling as Mark Webber was down in seventh and Vettel 10th, the latter 1.230secs down.