- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

MONTMELO, Spain (AP) - Sebastian Vettel’s practice session at the Spanish Grand Prix ended with the four-time defending Formula One champion hitching a ride on a scooter after his Red Bull puttered out.

Lewis Hamilton had no such problems, finishing Friday’s opening day of practice with the top times from both training sessions as the dominating Mercedes team showed no signs of slowing down. The British driver is looking for his fourth straight win this season.

Mercedes teammate and F1 leader Nico Rosberg was right behind, setting the afternoon’s second best time after his crew fixed a cooling issue.

Vettel was running through his fifth lap on the sunny and dry 4.6-kilometer (2.9-mile) Circuito de Barcelona-Catalunya when his Red Bull came to a halt. He then helped push his RB10 out of the path of his rivals before a group of fans gathered at the fence to take photographs of the champion using a fire extinguisher on the rear of his malfunctioning car.

After Vettel was whisked back to the paddock on the back of a scooter, Hamilton clocked the fastest lap time in the opening session and then bettered that by almost 1.5 seconds in the afternoon with a mark of 1 minute, 25.524 seconds.

Red Bull said an electrical problem that “damaged the wiring” of Vettel’s car meant he couldn’t return for the afternoon practice session. That left Vettel with only one session on Saturday before qualifying.

“It’s a small failure, but a big consequence,” Vettel said.

Red Bull had given Vettel’s car an older chassis in a move the German called a “sanity check” to try to find an elusive answer to his car’s lack of pace.

The Austrian team renowned for its design had a bigger problem than speed, however, when Vettel was left stranded just after the fifth turn.

Vettel is having his worst season at Red Bull after a massive rule book overhaul with only one podium finish so far and sits in a distant fifth place in the standings. He has even had to let new teammate Daniel Ricciardo pass him twice during the last two races.

And Ricciardo emerged from the opening day of practice as the closest thing the grid can offer as a threat to the Mercedes duo by recording the third best time in both sessions at almost a second behind Hamilton.

Hamilton trails Rosberg by four points despite having won the last three races in front of his teammate. The pair have won all four races and taken all four pole positions this year.

Hamilton hasn’t lost a step after a three-week break and showed that the other teams have yet to make headway despite their upgrades for the start of the season’s run of European events.

“It’s been a great day today and I’m happy to be back in the car after what feels like quite a long break,” said Hamilton. “Our two practice sessions today went very smoothly, in fact I’ve not had such a good Friday for a very long time.”

Last year’s race winner, Fernando Alonso, had the fourth best effort in both sessions, while Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen could do no better than fifth in the afternoon.

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