Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Hamilton revels in Suzuka rollercoaster ride

Lewis Hamilton file Lewis Hamilton file
Jennie Wade | 08 October, 2018, 17:42

The German trails runaway Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 50 points with just five races left this season and his Mercedes rival rubbed salt in Vettel's wounds by dominating Friday's free practice at Suzuka.

Hamilton ended the day nearly half a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas, and 0.833s quicker than his chief title rival Sebastian Vettel.

"I didn't know where we were going to stand alongside the Red Bulls and Ferraris", Hamilton said.

"Suzuka has to be one of my favourite circuits, if not the favourite", said the Briton, who has won five of the last six races to close in on a fifth Formula One title.

It is four years since Jules Bianchi's ultimately fatal accident at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Even if Vettel wins all five remaining races, he's not guaranteed to beat Hamilton.

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.

That was 0.833 seconds quicker than Vettel, who improved from fifth in the morning to third quickest in the second session but had no answer to Hamilton's pace.

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More importantly, Shaw had the confidence of several hundreds under his belt when he walked out to bat for India Thursday morning. Rishabh Pant (17) and skipper Virat Kohli (72) were at the crease when umpires dislodged the bails for the day.

"We know what we were doing, I don't think we tried something different to other Fridays", he added. "But I just came here with the mindset, 'Okay I know where I want to get the vehicle'".

"When you get in the vehicle it's just the best, it's so much fun and I'm truly grateful to have the opportunity I have. I don't think there's much sense in that", Vettel said. "So I think we can focus on our work and now we try to obviously squeeze out everything that's left in the auto for tomorrow".

Not only were they close to a second lap slower than Mercedes in qualifying time, Hamilton also had a huge advantage on their race-simulation runs, where Hamilton was 0.7secs quicker than Vettel on the super-soft tyre.

"I think you can always do something [unusual with strategy], the question is whether it works", he said.

"It has been a clean Friday, no issues with the vehicle".

"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". I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow.

"We made progress with our cars, the steps that we planned, the steps have been coming. We couldn't do that today but it doesn't matter what they do, we look at ourselves and try to get the best from our package".

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