Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Mercedes dominate in Japan F1 GP practice, Vettel fifth fastest

Mercedes dominate in Japan F1 GP practice, Vettel fifth fastest

Despite Hamilton and Mercedes' healthy lead in both championships, Wolff is not carried away and cited Hamilton's 2007 title loss where he had held a 17-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen with two rounds remaining and despite such an advantage, Hamilton lost the title to the Ferrari driver in the season finale in Brazil.

In FP2, Hamilton continued to set the pace, posting 1:28.217 on supersoft tyres.

He was 0.833 seconds clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari, and 0.461secs faster than team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the Suzuka track.

The Ferrari driver finished 0.833 seconds slower than his rival to suggest he will have his work cut out to prevent Hamilton from galloping to the chequered flag this weekend. In Singapore an aggressive undercut strategy failed to achieve the team's goal of leapfrogging Hamilton and he lost a position to Max Verstappen, but in Russian Federation he was able to get ahead of Hamilton by pitting a lap earlier than the Mercedes - albeit before being passed on track.

Hamilton said: "Suzuka has to be one of my favourite circuits, if not the favourite one - it's very cool". "I am having the best day". I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow.

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The German, who heads into Sunday's race 50 points behind Hamilton, ran into traffic on his quickest lap and is sure to find more time.

Validating his theory, Wolff continued: "In the morning they were quicker through nearly every corner but they had a softer tyre".

"Maybe the next couple of tracks are better suited for us, we will know when we get there", said Vettel.

Whilst returning to Suzuka always comes with a little bit of sadness for these reasons, some of the drivers on the grid, like Charles Leclerc, feel his loss more closely than others.

Hamilton's pace continued the impression that Mercedes have made a dramatic step forward in performance following the end of the European season.

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"It has been a clean Friday", insisted Vettel, despite complaining of blistering tyres.

"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".

"It's also going to be a lot warmer in the race, so that will be different, but at least we got enough running already in dry conditions, so it doesn't matter if it's wet tomorrow".

"But overall the auto felt pretty good throughout all sectors, I just had some balance issues, struggling a bit with understeer".

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