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Kovalainen quickest in Japan GP practice

MCLAREN'S Heikki Kovalainen set the fastest time in today's wet opening practice session for this weekend's Japanese Formula One Grand Prix.

Kovalainen set a time of 1 minute, 40.356 seconds -about 10 seconds off the times expected in dry weather - around the Suzuka circuit, which is back in use for the first time in three years.

Williams' Kazuki Nakajima was second quickest in front of his home fans, with Force India's Adrian Sutil third.

Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello was ninth on the timesheets, outperforming title rivals. Teammate and championship leader Jenson Button was third last and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel just one place better.

Button leads Barrichello by 15 points and can clinch the title here if he scores five more points than the Brazilian. Brawn too is poised to seal the constructors' championship at this race. Red Bull must score at least seven points more than Brawn this weekend to retain a mathematical possibility of catching the leaders.

Giancarlo Fisichella had his best outing since switching to Ferrari, placing fourth in the timing, ahead of Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen got his first track session since learning he would be replaced at season's end, and was eighth. The man who will take his seat at Ferrari - Renault's Fernando Alonso - was seventh best.

Lewis Hamilton, winner of last weekend's Singapore GP, was sixth fastest in his McLaren.

The wet-weather practice could prove to be of little more than academic interest. While some morning rain is forecast ahead of tomorrow's qualifying, dry weather was expected for Sunday's race.

Kamui Kobayashi was 19th of 20 on the timesheets, after filling in at Toyota on short notice following the withdrawal of Timo Glock through illness. Toyota expects Glock to be fit by tomorrow.


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