SHANGHAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso gave notice they have not given up hope of catching championship leader Lewis Hamilton by setting the fastest times in today's practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Raikkonen, who trails the British rookie by 17 points with 20 at stake in the last two races of the season, swept around the circuit in one minute, 36.607 seconds late in the second session to lay down his marker for the weekend.
World champion Alonso, 12 points behind McLaren team mate Hamilton, was second quickest by just 0.006 seconds in 1.36.613 ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in 1:36.630 in the other Ferrari.
Hamilton, who was fourth quickest 0.269 seconds behind Raikkonen, will be Formula One world champion on Sunday if he wins or beats both Alonso and Finn Raikkonen.
First, though, the 22-year-old must wait for the result of an inquiry into his driving behind the safety car at last week's rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix, which could cost him 10 places on the grid for the start of Sunday's race.
GOOD DAY Formula One stewards, who are assessing claims that Hamilton drove erratically and helped cause Sebastian Vettel to crash into Mark Webber, are expected to come to a decision later today.
Hamilton looked unaffected by the controversy as he set the early pace in the afternoon session but Alonso had soon overhauled him and the championship rivals monopolised the top of the time sheets for the first hour.
It was Hamilton who blinked first, however, coming off the track and into the gravel at the end of a flying lap and from then on it looked like Alonso would take the opening day honours until Raikonnen's late charge.
Italian Jarno Trulli was fifth fastest on a rare good day for Toyota with his departing German team mate Ralf Schumacher seventh quickest behind Red Bull's Mark Webber.
BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld had an eventful day having to have his car pushed back to the garage in both sessions after twice grinding to a halt by the side of the track.
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