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F1 Raceweek: Vettel needs to close Hamilton gap in Japan

07 Octubre 2017, 12:02 | Verda Sainz

F1 Raceweek: Vettel needs to close Hamilton gap in Japan

Lars Baron  Getty Images Sport

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth fastest in first practice, is to be hit with a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox before the regulation limit of six consecutive events.

After Sebastian Vettel topped Practice One for Ferrari, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was quickest in the afternoon session but only five drivers set a time following a 45-minute delay.

The Briton leads the world championship by 34 points after he eked everything out of his vehicle to seal second place in Malaysia last weekend despite both Ferrari and Red Bull being faster around Sepang.

"Every lap was fantastic".

The Mercedes driver, who now leads rival Sebastian Vettel by 34 points, broke the track record in Q2 before repeating the feat twice in Q3 on Saturday, eventually finishing in 1min 27.319secs.

While Bottas stayed in the garage in second practice, Hamilton felt it important to give the spectators something to watch. This became the first Japanese Grand Prix pole for Hamilton at Suzuka.

"The results of the last two races were not good, but the auto is strong".

Australian Daniel Ricciardo set the fourth-fastest time ahead of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, victor in Malaysia last weekend.

That's not to say there weren't things to be entertained by, with the teams keeping themselves amused with origami boat races down the rivers that were forming in the pit lane (Stoffel Vandoorne in particular looked a dab hand at this).

And with his vehicle way off the pace he was fortunate to finish second behind Verstappen in Malaysia last time out, with Vettel forced to start from the back of the grid and Raikkonen not turning a wheel after another engine failure. After both cars got their laps done, and a feel for high and low fuel, he said the team were "reasonably pleased with the initial balance and performance". Alonso faces a 35-place penalty from wherever he qualifies after Honda made a full power unit change on his vehicle overnight.

Ferrari endured a torrid September, suffering a double first-lap DNF in Singapore and then race-wrecking engine problems in Malaysia.

"I think having the fight with Ferrari and Mercedes is great for the sport, it is a shame the last two races turned out how they have because it is a big gap in the championship now".

With three teams fighting it out for race wins, Jenson Button believes Formula 1 is in a "good place" right now. Carlos Sainz Jr. propped up the classification in Q2, taking 15th on the grid for Toro Rosso. "The auto is quick so it is up to us to put it in the right place".

Rain is also forecast for Saturday's qualifying but clear skies are expected for Sunday's race. The race from Suzuka begins at 6am on Sunday.



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