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Hamilton tops China practice

MOTORSPORT: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker in first practice for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix today, banging in the quickest lap of the session after spending much of the morning in the garage.

The 2008 world champion, last year's winner and the only driver to have triumphed twice in Shanghai, completed only seven laps but topped the timing screens with a best drive of one minute 37.106 seconds.

His hopes of securing a third pole in three races have already vanished, however, after his team said that the Briton will pick up a five place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

With a damp start to the session after overnight rain, Hamilton appeared happy to save his tyres in the knowledge that he will need every strategic advantage on Sunday if he is to celebrate a first win of the season. Mercedes' German pairing of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, whose 91st and last career win came at the Shanghai circuit with Ferrari in 2006, were second and third quickest respectively.

Meanwhile, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said next week's Bahrain Grand Prix would definitely go ahead as planned and all of the teams were "happy" to be going there.



Bulls beat Heat

BASKETBALL: A misfiring Derrick Rose forced the Chicago Bulls to rely on their bench but they still managed a 96-86 overtime win over the Miami Heat last night to stay in the driving seat in the race for the Eastern Conference title. Rose scored a career-low two points from 13 shots at the basket and did not feature late in the fourth quarter or in overtime, but the Bulls still seized a four-game lead over Miami with just seven games to play.



Niland retires

TENNIS: Conor Niland has retired from the pro game. A persistent hip problem, which first manifested itself in a Futures tournament in Bosnia four years ago, has led to the 30-year-old Limerick man quitting the chase for world ranking points after seven years on the pro circuit.



Phil Powers on

DARTS: Phil 'The Power' Taylor produced another super show to remain unbeaten in the Premier League Darts with an 8-3 defeat of Raymond van Barneveld in Sheffield last night, while reigning champion Gary Anderson's hopes of retaining the title took a blow when he gained only one point from his two matches.


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