Mercedes dominate in Japan F1 GP practice, Vettel fifth fastest

Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton dominates practice but Mercedes insist Ferrari are holding back

He and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen struggled with their tyre life as the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struck a psychological blow by topping both sessions ahead of this weekend's qualifying and race.

Vettel called the move a "no-brainer" after finishing third in Sochi but Hamilton's 70th Formula One victory left Mercedes squirming with embarrassment.

Mercedes took a surprise step forward in Singapore in September, a track that had traditionally been a bogey circuit for them, and Hamilton took pole and a dominant win.

After setting his best lap in FP2, an enthusiastic Hamilton could be heard on the radio saying, "this track is awesome; I'm having the best day". "But I just came here with the mindset, 'Okay I know where I want to get the auto'".

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

Hamilton heads into this weekend with a 50 point lead of title rival Sebastian Vettel, and the four-time World Champion thought there would be more from the German and his team.

Sebastian Vettel has stressed that Ferrari is keeping track with its planned development path, in the wake of having been defeated across the past three Grands Prix.

"The vehicle also felt quite good, although for me it was better in FP1 than in FP2".

Hamilton expanded on those comments afterwards, explaining just how much joy he gets from driving around the iconic Suzuka circuit.

"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".

"It has been a clean Friday", insisted Vettel, despite complaining of blistering tyres. "We couldn't do that today but it doesn't matter what they do, we look at ourselves, and we will try to get the best out of our package".

"I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit", he told Sky Sports F1, suggesting that Ferrarti had turned down their engines a bit on Friday.

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.

"No interruptions, no issue with the vehicle or anything, so now we have to try to obviously squeeze out everything that is left in the auto for tomorrow".

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".

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