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Hamilton, Mercedes cars dominate 1st practice

Friday - 7/5/2013, 8:37am  ET

Mercedes mechanics wait for the Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain in the pit during the first free practice at the Nuerburgring racetrack, in Nuerburg, Germany, Friday, July 5, 2013. Formula One drivers threatened to withdraw from the German Grand Prix if there are more tire blowouts during Sunday's race. Last weekend, a number of blowouts overshadowed the British GP, causing tire supplier Pirelli to introduce a new plan to stop the same thing from happening again. But the Grand Prix Drivers' Association said Thursday in a statement that the drivers would pull out if the problem persists.The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

NESHA STARCEVIC
AP Sports Writers

NUERBURGRING, Germany (AP) -- Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated the first practice for the German Grand Prix on Friday, and the new tires supplied by Pirelli held.

Leading drivers have threatened to withdraw from Sunday's Formula One race if tire problems persist, while teams were asked to stick to operating requirements.

Hamilton set the pace in practice, completing the fastest lap in 1 minute, 31.754 seconds. Hamilton is still seeking his first win since joining Mercedes this season.

Rosberg, winner of two of the last three races, was .219 seconds behind. Red Bull's Mark Webber was third and Force India's Adrian Sutil was fourth.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel, still looking for his first win on home soil, was eighth fastest. His closet challenger, Fernando Alonso, failed to complete a lap in his Ferrari, apparently due to electrical problems.

The tire problems became an issue at last week's British GP, where five cars sustained blowouts, leading drivers to express concern for the safety of everyone at the track.

Pirelli wants all teams to remain within the prescribed pressure limits and to stop switching tires from left to right and vice versa.

The International Automobile Federation said on Friday it was the responsibility of each team to comply with the requirements.

Late Thursday, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association said the drivers would pull out if tire problems persist in Germany.

"The drivers have decided if similar problems should manifest themselves during the German GP, we shall immediately withdraw from the event, as this avoidable problem with the tires endangers again the lives of drivers, marshals and fans," The GPDA said.

This weekend, the belt on the rear tires will be made of Kevlar instead of steel in an effort to reduce the chance of punctures.

From the Hungarian GP at the end of this month, the tires will change again, using the 2012 construction with 2013 compounds.

In the paddock at the Nuerburgring, some drivers praised Pirelli for acting quickly to rectify the problem. But the GPDA, chaired by Pedro de la Rosa and with Vettel and Jenson Button as directors, met later and decided to take their own action in order to avoid a repeat of the scenes from Silverstone.

Not all divers are members of the GPDA - Kimi Raikkonnen of Lotus and Sutil are among non-members.


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