Sebastian Vettel insists Ferrari hasn't 'lost direction' in F1 title race

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

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.

Hamilton was fastest in the first session, when he was 0.446secs ahead of Bottas and 0.682secs quicker than Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in third.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, whose hopes of pipping Hamilton to a fifth world title are quickly evaporating following the Briton's run of five victories in the last six races, refused to hit the panic button.

Hamilton is a three-time victor in Suzuka, which is hosting its 30th grand prix this weekend.

After winning the Russian GP last week, Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by 50 points.

Vettel managed to put 19 laps on the super-soft tyre in second practice at Suzuka, but his race pace did not appear to be as strong as Hamilton's. That was Lewis Hamilton's assessment during second practice in Japan - and the timesheets backed up the Mercedes star, who blew his rivals away on Friday...

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".

Lewis Hamilton wins Japan Grand Prix; Brendon Hartley 13th
With rain threatening, Hamilton clocked a lap of 1 minute, 27.760 seconds to edge teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.299 seconds. Esteban Ocon completed a double points finish for Force India in ninth while Carlos Sainz took the final point for Renault.

"I don't think we tried something different to other Fridays", Vettel said.

"I just came here with the mindset of I know where I've got to get the auto, I know there's always areas to improve". "It has been a clean Friday with no interruptions, no issues with the vehicle or anything". "But overall I think it has been okay".

"We are actually losing a bit through the esses, the fast corners, so I think probably Vettel's lap time is a little better at the moment". "The balance was in quite a nice place, so I was just enjoying it".

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

"We have some work to do ahead of tomorrow", said Verstappen.

Hamilton's win in Sochi was overshadowed by the decision to have teammate Valtteri Bottas pull over to let Hamilton pass. Bottas started from pole and was in position for his first win of 2018 when the decision was made by the team. "We're expecting some rain overnight and the wind looks strong tomorrow which could make things tricky for the drivers in qualifying".

"As the season progresses you hope that you can improve, and usually you do get better, but I didn't know I was going to improve in the way that I have".

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