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McLaren's woes continue in preseason

MCLAREN'S preseason woes continued on Wednesday when world champion Lewis Hamilton ran off the track to finish last in a Formula One testing session led by team Brawn GP in Barcelona.

Jenson Button set a quickest lap of 1 minute, 19.127 seconds for the former Honda team, to hold more than a full second lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber.

Hamilton, greeted by whistles from Spanish fans every time he exited the pit lane, finished over 2.5 seconds behind Button and nearly 1.5 seconds behind Massa ?? his closest challenger last season.

The 24-year-old Hamilton, F1's first black driver, was subjected to racist taunts at the same Catalunya circuit last February.

An abysmal run of test results have left question marks over McLaren's ability to provide a good car for Hamilton to defend his world title.

Hamilton went off at the second corner and hit a tire barrier which caused damage to the front wing and nose. Although the British driver returned to finish, he came no closer to catching Button.

"I don't know if they have a problem or not and what they are doing. Let's wait a few weeks and we will know where they are in the first race," Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen said.

"They haven't probably been as quick as in the past winter but that doesn't mean that they won't be fast in the first race."

Brawn GP continued to make maximum use of the handful of testing sessions left at its disposal ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on March 29, with Button chalking up 130 laps on the day - equal to the number the British team managed over the first two days.

"After the challenges we have faced, to come here and get off to such an encouraging start is just what we all needed and I can't thank the team enough," Button said.

The team's future had been left in the balance after Honda pulled out of the sport in December until team principal Ross Brawn bought the F1 outfit from the Japanese auto manufacturer last Friday.

Toyota's Timo Glock and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Renault rounded out the top-five.


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