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Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Friday, 22 October 2010 11:24 UK

Alonso tips Lewis Hamilton as favourite for Korean GP

Mark Webber

Highlights - Webber fastest in second practice

Korean Grand Prix, Yeongam, 22-24 October
Qualifying: 0500-0730 on BBC TV, Red Button, online and 5 live sports extra
Race: 0600-0915 on BBC One, Red Button, online and Radio 5 live

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Korea

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso believes McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is favourite to earn victory at this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix.

Red Bull secured a one-two at the last race in Japan and their driver Mark Webber set the fastest time in the opening two practice sessions in Korea.

But Hamilton was not far behind and Alonso said: "I reckon he is one of the favourites to win this Grand Prix."

Hamilton added: "We are as competitive as the Red Bulls at least."

This weekend is vital for the title hopes of Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button after a disappointing few weeks for the McLaren team.

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Hamilton has not finished two of the last three races while in Japan last time out, he ended up in fifth after suffering a gearbox problem.

With only three races of the season left to go, he is 28 points behind Webber in the driver standings with Button three points further adrift.

McLaren engineer Phil Prew said earlier in the week that they needed to finish ahead of the Australian Webber to have any chance of winning the title.

During the opening practice sessions in Korea, Hamilton and Button used the new version of McLaren's 'F-duct' aerodynamic innovation which was first tested in Friday practice in Suzuka a fortnight ago.

The upgraded rear wing seemed to deliver positive results, with Hamilton setting the pace in session one and ending up third in second practice, 0.337 seconds off Webber's fastest time.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton happy with 'competitive' McLaren

"Today was an encouraging first day for the team," added Hamilton. "First impressions suggest our new upgrades are working and that we seem to have the performance to match the other world championship front-runners.

"We'll be deploying our new rear wing for the remainder of the weekend.

"We are very competitive, as competitive as the Red Bulls at least so that's a good thing. They don't seem to be as quick maybe. Webber looks good but tomorrow will tell.

"It's good to know that the car feels good and we'll do what we can with that.

"It's still very close as the Red Bull, Ferraris and Renaults look quick. The cars look fairly equal so maybe it's just down to which driver can pull out the most time."

Hamilton also believes that the championship race is still "all to play for".

Jenson Button

Button bemoans loss of running

"If you looked at the championship and said it's inevitable that the Red Bull are the fastest car and it's inevitable that they are going to win then there's no point competing," the 25-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I never approach it that way. We are all there to compete and there's still 75 points available.

"We have to pull our socks up and do a better job. I think we do have the car. More so than Ferrari, we have the car to compete with the Red Bulls, at least be closer to them than anyone else.

"They are not going to be perfect for all three races so we need to make sure that we are there to take whatever they lack in."

And Hamilton's positivity was echoed by Ferrari's championship rival Alonso, who is lying in second place after winning two of the last three races.

"As usual the Red Bulls seem very competitive and the McLarens appear to be very strong here," stated the Spanish two-time world champion.

Button, the defending world champion, is now fifth in the title race after claiming only one podium finish in the last seven races.

And he had limited running time in second practice after his car overheated in the pit box, which forced his McLaren mechanics to use extinguishers to prevent it catching fire.

We're very strong in the first sector as we expected but we're competitive in the other sectors so the car feels nice to drive

McLaren's Jenson Button

"Immediately the car felt reasonably good," commented Button. "We made some changes and I'm reasonably happy. We didn't get to run on high fuel this afternoon which was disappointing but other than that it's been a pretty good day.

"The car overheated so I stopped in the pit-lane and jumped out because it was smoky and smelly and it meant that we lost quite a bit of time and when we went back out there were certain things that I couldn't use.

"Lewis ran on high fuel and the car is working well around here. We're very strong in the first sector as we expected but we're competitive in the other sectors so the car feels nice to drive.

"It's performing pretty well. I'm enjoying the circuit and felt we got to grips with it pretty quickly. It was pretty tricky initially as we had such low grip.

"We didn't get carried away trying to change the balance to suit the circuit as it's changing so quickly and every session we gain about three seconds. It's massive - and I don't think it's going to stop either."

There are exclusive interviews with Lewis Hamilton and Sebasitan Vettel on 5 live Formula 1 at 2030 BST on Friday. The show is available on 693 and 909 MW and to download after broadcast from http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/cff1 or iTunes

Lewis Hamilton

Highlights - Hamilton fastest in first practice



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see also
Webber heads rivals in practice
22 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Korean GP practice as it happened
22 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Korean GP practice photos
22 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
I am staying at Ferrari - Massa
22 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton 'excited' by title race
21 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Button optimistic about upgrades
21 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren pair 'must beat Webber'
20 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Massa will help Alonso title push
19 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Webber eyes title boost in Korea
16 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton retains hope over title
13 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
I must win to take title - Webber
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Title a tough task now - Hamilton
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1


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