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Hamilton fastest in second practice at Japanese Grand Prix

09 October, 2018, 08:15 | Author: Hannah Francis
  • Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton dominates practice but Mercedes insist Ferrari are holding back

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton revelled in the speed of his Mercedes on Friday as the Formula One championship leader dominated Suzuka's "rollercoaster" circuit in Japanese Grand Prix practice.

But the reigning world champion, who leads his Ferrari rival by 50 points with five races left this season, survived a close shave in the morning session at Suzuka when he deftly avoided smashing his Mercedes into Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso.

Briton Hamilton, fastest ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas in first practice, lapped the 5.8-km Suzuka circuit even quicker in the later session, posting one minute, 28.217 seconds.

And the British racer's time was again nearly half a second faster than teammate Bottas in second and over eight tenths faster than title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Meanwhile, Red Bull's Max Verstappen went fourth fastest in the afternoon, more than a second off Hamilton's time with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fifth. "So I wasn't expecting that", Hamilton said after the day's action.

"Our vehicle worked really well but it is hard to know how much we have improved or they have stood still, or they have gone backwards".

"I was pretty happy - I think it was pretty good".

"We'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow".

"We know what the auto can do and we need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position".

One man unlikely to be revelling in Hamilton's fine form is Vettel, who heads into the race with the title battle out of his hands for the first time this year.

"In the morning they were quicker through nearly every corner but they had a softer tyre".

Vettel, however, denied that Ferrari has consistently had the better vehicle, insisting the difference between them and Mercedes has been minimal.

The Mercedes cars have clearly made a step forward in the last couple of races, while Ferrari seemed to have lost their edge.

Both Ferraris were suffering from blistered tyres on their long runs, and Vettel said: "We were sliding a little too much and when you slide, the temperatures go up and blistering is caused by sliding and we were probably damaging the tyres more than others".

"We know what the vehicle can do", he added, "and we need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position".

"So now I've just got to stay on it, keep going, keep working. If we can grasp pole tomorrow, that is great, but if not we need to be there just right behind".



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