Hamilton heaps more pressure on Vettel with practice double in Japan

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       Mercedes' Toto Wolff joined Simon Lazenby and Paul di Resta to discuss why Ferrari are holding back at Suz

2:07 Mercedes' Toto Wolff joined Simon Lazenby and Paul di Resta to discuss why Ferrari are holding back at Suz

Suzuka, Japan - Lewis Hamilton limbered up for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix by going fastest in Friday's first free practice nearly half-a-second quicker than Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton won in Japan previous year, while Vettel failed to finish, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo claiming second and third.

Leading Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 50 points with five races left this season, Hamilton underlined his purple patch of form by pushing his Mercedes more than 0.8 seconds quicker than the German in the afternoon session with a breath-taking lap.

The Brit can put one hand on the fifth World Championship of his career with a fourth straight race win in Suzuka.

Lewis Hamilton admits he was surprised to see such a gap between himself and the rest of the field after Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Defending champion Hamilton leads the drivers' championship, with Bottas in third, while Mercedes are out in front in the constructors' standings, having recorded a one-two in Russian Federation last week.

Mercedes led the way in an ominous sign for Ferrari in the race for the title as Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas topped the standings, with the reigning champion fastest in FP1 and FP2 on Friday.

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

Mercedes dominated Friday practice at Suzuka, leading one-twos in both sessions with Ferrari ending the day 0.8s off the pace. "I wasn't totally satisfied with the feeling in the auto today".

"I don't think we tried something different to other Fridays", Vettel said. When you get in the vehicle it's just the best - it's so fast.

"I'm just loving driving more than ever; when you get in the auto, it's just the best, it's so fast and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I do". I was much better than I had ever been through those particular corners. "Now I just have to stay on it, keep working".

"But overall, it has been a clean Friday, no interruptions, no issue with the vehicle or anything", added Vettel.

If, as expected, Hamilton takes the chequered flag here on Sunday - a race that he has won in three of the past four years - then there is a small chance that he could secure the championship in America in a fortnight.

"In the end we tried something on the auto that seemed to give us a bit better feeling, so let's see if we can get it together tomorrow and find something else".

"We have a full night ahead to investigate all the changes we made and find the right set-up".

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