CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai International Circuit Race: Sunday, 19 October from 0800 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website and ITV1 Qualifying: Saturday, 18 October from 0700 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website and ITV1
Despite a couple of off-track moments, Hamilton dominated practice
Lewis Hamilton got his Chinese Grand Prix weekend off to a perfect start with the fastest time in practice.
The McLaren driver clocked one minute 35.630 seconds in the first session to beat Ferrari's Felipe Massa, his main rival for the title, by 0.390 secs.
Hamilton was fastest again in the slower second session, with the Brazilian in sixth place.
The third driver in title contention, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, was fifth and 12th in the two sessions.
Fernando Alonso - the winner of the last two races, who has made it clear he would rather Kubica or Massa won the title than his former team-mate Hamilton - was second fastest in the afternoon, 0.274 secs adrift in his Renault.
Hamilton leads Massa in the drivers' standings by five points heading into this penultimate race, with Kubica a further seven adrift.
The 23-year-old can win the title on Sunday in one of several scenarios: if he wins, with Massa lower than fourth; if he is second, with Massa lower than sixth; or if he is third, with Massa out of the points, as long as Kubica does not win.
For now, Hamilton is focusing on the task ahead in Shanghai, where he is determined to atone for his dismal 12th-place finish in Japan.
Today doesn't represent anything - there are possibilities to be strong in qualifying and the race
Ferrari driver Felipe Massa
"I'm not going into this race saying it has to be done now," said Hamilton, who is attempting to become the youngest world champion in Formula One history.
"I just want to redeem myself from last week. I feel confident for qualifying but not too confident.
"We have a strong car as always and this was one of the best Fridays I've had - I'm very happy."
Massa was well adrift of his McLaren rival in both sessions but believes his practice pace is not a true reflection of his ability to challenge Hamilton over the course of the weekend.
"Today doesn't represent anything," said Massa. "There are possibilities to be strong in qualifying and the race.
"I hope we can be competitive; that's what we're working for and for sure it would be nice to start in the front or the front row.
"We did a good job on fine-tuning [in practice] and I'm confident."
Kubica, who retains slim hopes of a first world title, admitted he needs to find further improvement if he is to challenge in China.
"We tried all kinds of different things, but I'm not happy with the balance of the car, and the overall level of grip is poor," Kubica said.
"There is still a lot of work to be done."
Hamilton needs allies - Jordan
Hamilton insists he has put behind him the first-corner error that led to him scoring no points at the Japanese Grand Prix last Sunday.
But his driving has come in for criticism from some of his fellow racers, who believe he sometimes moves around dangerously while braking.
Hamilton, however, showed no signs of being distracted by his critics as he blitzed both practice sessions at the Shanghai circuit comfortably clear of his rivals.
The Englishman set his hot lap late in the morning session but jumped straight to the top of the timesheets in his first flying lap of the afternoon, setting a benchmark of 1:35.750 which could not be bettered.
Hamilton had dominated in China last season only for his race to unravel, and along with it his grip on the world title, when he spun into the gravel and was forced to retire from the race.
He looked on from the McLaren garage as Renault's Nelson Piquet made the same mistake in the same spot in morning practice, sliding off the pit lane entry and ploughing across the gravel.
There were plenty of wobbles during practice and Hamilton's otherwise faultless display was slightly spoiled when he ran off the track halfway through the opening session before coming off again at the tricky Turn Two in the afternoon.
Kimi Raikkonen, celebrating his birthday, spun his Ferrari in the same place, while Toro Rosso's Sebastian Bourdais ended the second session marooned in the gravel trap.
The afternoon session saw most of the field experiment with different fuel loads and Renault's strategy elevated Alonso up to second with his team-mate Piquet third.
However, Alonso, surprise winner of the last two Grands Prix, is not ruling out another solid performance in Shanghai.
"We need to work hard because we can improve the car a little bit in terms of set up," the double world champion said.
"The two top teams are very quick so we need to get in the middle of them and have a better qualifier to start from the front."
First practice times from Chinese Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes one minute 35.630
2. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:36.020
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.052
4. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.103
5. Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:36.507
6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:36.661
7. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:37.040
8. Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.070
9. Nelson Piquet (Brz) Renault 1:37.180
10. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.278
11. Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:37.491
12. Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:37.619
13. Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams-Toyota 1:37.630
14. David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault 1:37.638
15. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:37.638
16. Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:37.664
17. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1:37.827
18. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:38.219
19. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:38.285
20. Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India-Ferrari 1:38.479
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.