Massa gains early lead in Malaysian GP practice

Felipe Massa, seeking to avoid a repeat of his previous race, took the top time in Friday's first practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver looked sharp over the winter and then had a gearbox problem for the season opener in Australia last month and had to start from the rear of the grid.

He went around the Sepang International Circuit in 1 minute, 34.972 seconds to edge the world champion the last two years, Fernando Alonso, 1:35.220.

Alonso's new McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton, was third with 1:35.712 with Kimi Raikkonen, the winner of the first race of the season, fourth in a Ferrari, 1:35.779.

The two teams that dominated the winter testing and the first race of the season led the practice, although many teams took it easy as they had done a lot of laps in testing last week on the same circuit.

In the first race of the year it was Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton in the top three with Massa moving up to sixth.

There is another practice Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, with qualifying Saturday afternoon. Sunday's race is 56 laps of the 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile) Sepang circuit.

Raikkonen and Alonso return to the site of 2003 exploits.

Then Alonso became the youngest driver, at age 21, to gain a pole position. He would go on to leave a string of "youngest" marks in Formula One, including the youngest to win a race and a world title over the last two years for Renault.

He went on to finish third in the race behind a young Finnish driver Raikkonen, who won his first Formula One race.

Since then, their paths have repeatedly crossed. Raikkonen went on to finish second twice in the driver's standings, coming close to Alonso in 2005 and Michael Schumacher in 2003.

Raikkonen went on to replace Schumacher at Ferrari and won for the Italian team in Melbourne last month.

After leaving Renault, Alonso hopes to become the first McLaren winner here since Raikkonen in 2003 and the first McLaren winner since Oct. 2005 when Raikkonen won the Japanese GP.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova