Monday, 10 December, 2018

Japanese GP: Hamilton Dominant In Practice, Vettel Reveals Ferrari’s Main Problem

Hamilton nearly 0.5s clear in Japan as Alonso makes mistake			Image by Mauger  LAT Hamilton nearly 0.5s clear in Japan as Alonso makes mistake Image by Mauger LAT
Frederick Owens | 08 October, 2018, 17:42

Lewis Hamilton delivered a psychological blow to Sebastian Vettel's fading Formula One title hopes as the Briton dominated Friday's free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes were the quickest in the first two practice sessions with Valtteri Bottas also recording better lap times than Vettel.

Max Verstappen, sixth in the morning, was fourth fastest for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Although Vettel trails Hamilton by 50 points in the drivers' championship with just five races left this season, he denied that this Sunday presents his last chance to dent the Briton's lead and mount a realistic title challenge.

Hamilton heads into the weekend having won five of the last six races with only five more - including Sunday's round - remaining.

The German has won four times in Japan before, which should give him confidence, but so has Hamilton, including a year ago.

However, one concern was tyre wear after delivering blisters on his P2 long-run: "We were sliding a bit too much when the temperatures go up".

"We know what we were doing, I don't think we tried something different to other Fridays", he added.

"Of course you would like to be always further with more performance, but that's the same for everyone".

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"I think I've said many times that we have a strong vehicle, but I don't think, against the people's opinions, that we had a dominant auto at any point this year", the German said.

Appearing to back up Wolff's claim that Ferrari are stronger than Friday suggested, Vettel appeared reasonably content with the team's start to the weekend - a day he described as a "clean Friday with no interruptions".

"I think overall it's been OK".

"When you get in the auto it's just the best, it's so much fun and I'm truly grateful to have the opportunity I have".

Japanese Grand Prix qualifying get underway at 7am (BST) on Saturday morning, two hours after the final practice session finishes. "We focus on our work and we try to squeeze everything that is left in the vehicle". I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow.

"I just have to stay on it, keep working", Hamilton said.

"We need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position".

Similar to Russian Federation a week ago, Vettel says there are no obvious weaknesses where Ferrari is lacking at Suzuka but felt there was progress made during the day that gives him reason to be positive about the rest of the weekend.

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