Hamilton fastest in 1st practice in Bahrain

By BARBARA SURK | April 20, 2012 | 5:07 AM EDT

McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain smiles at the pits during the first free practice ahead the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, April 20, 2012. Authorities in Bahrain have stepped up security around the Formula One circuit at the start of the controversial Grand Prix racing weekend. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Lewis Hamilton edged Sebastian Vettel in the first practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.

Hamilton clocked 1 minute, 33.572 seconds in his McLaren around the 3.4-mile Bahrain International Circuit, 0.305 seconds quicker than two-time defending champion Vettel for Red Bull.

HRT's Pedro de la Rosa was third followed by last week's Chinese GP winner, Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.

Ferrari, meanwhile, continued to struggle as Fernando Alonso finished 13th and Felipe Massa 15th.

Security was tight on the roads leading to the track and surrounding the circuit following days of anti-governnment demonstrations.