First blood to Hamilton in Spanish GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo.

The Mercedes driver posted a fastest time of 1:27.023 to claim top spot, after venturing out for a late run once the track had evolved and become quicker.

Practice took place under perfect blue skies on Friday morning in Spain, giving the teams the best conditions in which to test the new parts on their cars.

However, it turned out to be a troublesome session for a number of drivers who encountered problems, including Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez. Vettel’s car stopped out on track during the first 30 minutes of the session, thus curtailing his running and leaving the team with a few questions to answer. Perez’s incident was far more bizarre as his left wing mirror broke loose.

In the sister Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo ran well to finish in third place behind Hamilton and Button, whilst Nico Rosberg could only finish fifth because of a problem on his car that forced him to sit on the sidelines.

Reserve driver Giedo van der Garde stepped into the Sauber as part of his development programme, replacing Esteban Gutierrez. The Dutchman suffered a scary brake failure on his C33 when heading into the first corner, and was very fortunate not to collide into the wall at high speed.

Home favorite Fernando Alonso struggled to get to grips with the updates on his Ferrari, wrestling with the car throughout the practice sessions. He still rallied to finish fourth ahead of Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen.

Once again, the advantage appears to lie with Mercedes this weekend, and Hamilton will be hoping to carry this pace throughout the weekend as he goes in search of a fourth straight victory.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski