Vettel sets blistering pace in Japanese Grand Prix

Hamilton smiles at a young fan during a signing session at the Suzuka Circuit on Thursday

Heavy rain between the two practice sessions on Friday saw FP2 delayed until conditions improved, with the FIA race director Charlie Whiting only willing to allow running to take place in the final 45 minutes of the session.

Red Bull were again in the mix here, with Daniel Ricciardo lapping only 0.375s off Vettel's morning pace, but unlike Hamilton, he was anxious that this was a product of very high downforce settings that hurt his auto on the long pit straight. "I lost the auto", said the Spaniard over the radio before climbing out of the wreckage unhurt. "I'm glad that we had the dry session for first practice". But we know they will always go a lot quicker so we need to find a few more tenths if we want to battle with them in the dry on Sunday.

Stroll was the only driver to fall prey to the conditions, sliding off the track after hitting a patch of water at Turn One and narrowly avoiding a crash.

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Afterwards, he said: "It's been an interesting day, the vehicle is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia".

The Finnish duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas finished fourth and fifth respectively, neither able to match the pace of their teammates in P1 and P2, while Max Verstappen was over a second down on Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, ending up sixth.

"It was important for me because the vehicle feels different in practice one to last week, massively, massively different.

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I'll find out when I get on track", said the Briton Hamilton, who struggled at last weekend's sweltering Malaysia race, but still managed to extend his championship lead over Vettel to 34 points with a second place finish.

Vettel faces a potential must-win race at the fearsome figure-of-eight Japan circuit, where he won four times with Red Bull.

A red flag came out after Carlos Sainz crashed about 50 minutes into the session when he ran wide and accelerated out of the hairpin.

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Esteban Ocon's Force India and Nico Hulkenberg in a Renault were seventh and eighth quickest, while Romain Grosjean's Haas and the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top 10.

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