Vettel sets early pace from Hamilton in Suzuka

Vettel sets early pace from Hamilton in Suzuka”

When the session resumed with 23 minutes left on the clock, Ferrari sent both its drivers out on super-soft tyres, with Vettel - who had been 0.042 seconds behind super-soft-shod Hamilton in second when still on softs - eclipsing the Mercedes' previous benchmark by 0.211s to move to the top of the times.

The German set a benchmark time of one minute, 29.166 seconds around 15 minutes from the end of the 90-minute session to edge out championship leader Hamilton by 0.211 seconds.

Ferrari believes the engine problem Vettel and Raikkonen suffered in Malaysia is similar and while it has found a way to manage it for Japan, investigations are continuing to get a better understanding of why it happened.

Mercedes had struggled for pace in the sweltering heat of Singapore and Malaysia, where they were the third fastest team, but Hamilton made the most of his good fortune to claim a victory and a second to extend his championship lead. "Our vehicle has taken more pole positions and race wins than any other and we lead both championships". With Sebastian having a penalty in the last race we saw him come through but we didn't get to see him really run at the front, so that's exciting and I just hope that we have enough strength to be able to fight that.

"We've got improvements coming this weekend so hopefully that gives us a stronger platform just to battle". The exciting thing is to have the opportunity to fight, to remain in the fight.

Valtteri Bottas registered a 1:30.151 for Mercedes with Red Bull's Max Verstappen - who ambushed Hamilton to win in Malaysia last weekend - sixth fastest.

"So it is hard to compensate if we want to start last with an extra horsepower, or do we want to do a ideal weekend and try to score points?"

"I'm definitely under no illusion - I don't feel comfortable at all", he added. "Somebody mentioned something about Nico only wanting to finish second [at the final races of last year] but he was qualifying to get pole, he wasn't qualifying to get second position".

Organizers fuelled the cars for both races as a result, but a miscalculation meant all of the runners ran dry and stopped on-track before completing the eight-lap distance.

"For me, the goal is to continue to win races even if I don't have to win another grand prix through the rest of the year". I don't know if you guys can predict it but I still can't predict which races are going to work and which ones are not, because in the past when you've tried to predict it it's always wrong.

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