Hamilton fastest as Mercedes dominate Japanese GP practice

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.

Lewis Hamilton is 50 points clear of Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers' Championship (Picture: Getty Images)What time is the Japanese Grand Prix on in the UK?

The Briton, who controversially took his eighth chequered flag of the season in Russian Federation last week after Mercedes ordered Bottas to let him through, clocked one minute, 28.691 seconds on super-soft tyres at Suzuka.

Indeed, Kimi Raikkonen, who finished fifth, was 1.28sec off Hamilton's pace with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen splitting the Ferrari duo.

The Mercedes driver was fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions by quite a large margin, and at one point in FP2 he declared over the team radio "This track is awesome!"

"Time will tell, I don't know", said the 31-year-old Vettel when asked if he thought the deficit to Hamilton could be bridged.

What Hamilton is convinced about is that much of the progress made at Mercedes has come from the team having properly unlocked all the potential in its auto. "It's incredible. The track is just.they don't make tracks like this any more". "Suzuka has to be one of my favourite circuits, if not the favourite one, it's very cool".

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

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"We are working so hard to fine-tuning this auto, which we are becoming accustomed to now and as I said I'm loving driving more than ever".

Vettel must overhaul Hamilton at a rate of 10 points per race if he is to wrestle back control of the 2018 title, but downplayed that it is a case of "now or never" in the scrap.

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.

"But our understanding of the auto is continuing and our understanding of the vehicle is where we are making the biggest steps".

Validating his theory, Wolff continued: "In the morning they were quicker through nearly every corner but they had a softer tyre. If we can grasp pole, great, but if not we need to be right behind".

"Maybe the next couple of tracks are better suited for us, we will know when we get there", said Vettel. "I am just grateful for the races I have had and how a lot of then have panned out".

"The headline times from today do flatter us but we can still find some time working on the balance both on a single lap and a long run", he concluded.

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