Vettel tells Ferrari to ignore Mercedes advantage

Silvia Morton
October 8, 2018

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton revelled in the speed of his Mercedes on Friday as the Formula One championship leader dominated Suzuka's "rollercoaster" circuit in Japanese Grand Prix practice.

Meanwhile, Red Bull's Max Verstappen went fourth fastest in the afternoon, more than a second off Hamilton's time with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fifth.

Although Vettel trails Hamilton by 50 points in the drivers' championship with just five races left this season, he denied that this Sunday presents his last chance to dent the Briton's lead and mount a realistic title challenge.

Hamilton has won five of the last six grands prix this season, and three of the last four to be staged in Japan, and the world champion was again in impressive form on Friday.

The German has won four times in Japan before, which should give him confidence, but so has Hamilton, including previous year.

Bottas headed Vettel by a tenth at that point but the Ferrari was running supersoft tyres and barely outpaced Hamilton, who was only on mediums.

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Vettel was third fastest, more than 0.8 seconds off the pace, as he prepares for what is looking increasingly like a must-win race for the German.

After his fastest time was 0.833s shy of Hamilton in second practice, Vettel did not appear confident about securing pole position on Saturday. "With these new cars we are much faster than we were a year ago so just every time you come here the cars are getting faster and faster, the track is just incredible. In the race I think it was very close and I think it has been very close all year".

"I think the highlights that you mentioned or the races that (have been) mentioned, in qualifying we were not ahead".

"Straight away I was much, much better than I've ever been through those particular corners". "It's a monster lap and you always think that there's a little bit more here".

"It has been a clean Friday". "My team and I, we're working so well together in fine-tuning this vehicle". I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow. I think we can still improve, and in the end we tried something with the vehicle that managed to give us a bit of a better feeling, so let's see if we can carry that in to tomorrow and find something else.

The Mercedes cars have clearly made a step forward in the last couple of races, while Ferrari seemed to have lost their edge. "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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