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Lewis Hamilton Is Pacesetter in Practice for Japanese Grand Prix

The man to match or beat is once again the championship-leading Mercedes-AMG driver.

Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton is the benchmark to beat after two sessions of Friday free practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

The teammate nearest to Hamilton is Valtteri Bottas, who managed to beat Hamilton’s morning times in the afternoon, but remains more than four-tenths down. Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari led the other frontrunners by almost another four-tenths down on Bottas in the second session. This was a major improvement in Vettel’s morning times, which were slower than that of his subordinate Kimi Räikkönen.

Speed trap data suggested Vettel may have experimented with a low-drag setup for the first session, as his top speed reached 302.1 kph (187.7 mph) versus Räikkönen’s 298.5 kph (185.5 mph), despite posting slower lap times. Adoption of a setup closer to Räikkönen’s brought Vettel ahead by more than four-tenths. The drivers for both Ferrari and Red Bull Racing were staggered in FP2 standings with Max Verstappen between the two red cars, and Daniel Ricciardo behind, his pace slipping between sessions instead of improving.

Representation of the midfield teams in the top ten was limited to four drivers, each from different teams. Force India’s Esteban Ocon was down more than a half second on Räikkönen, but enjoyed a healthy four-tenths gap to Haas’s Romain Grosjean. Less than a tenth separates Grosjean from Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda’s Brendon Hartley. Hartley appeared to be another setup experimenter, scoring sixth-fastest in the FP1 speed trap at 299.4 kph (186 mph), but his lap times were down with the Williams’ and McLaren’s teams. Changes to his FP2 program saw him cut more than 1.4 seconds and slip into the top ten—important for Honda at its home race.

A full list of best times along with margin of improvement between sessions can be found below.

  1. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes – 1:28.217, -0.474 from FP1
  2. Valtteri Bottas/Mercedes – 1:28.678, -0.459 from FP1
  3. Sebastian Vettel/Ferrari – 1:29.050, -0.635 from FP1
  4. Max Verstappen/Red Bull – 1:29.257, -0.584 from FP1
  5. Daniel Ricciardo/Red Bull – 1:29.373, +0.140 in FP2
  6. Kimi Räikkönen/Ferrari – 1:29.498, -0.129 from FP1
  7. Esteban Ocon/Force India – 1:30.035, -0.556 from FP1
  8. Romain Grosjean/Haas – 1:30.440, -0.374 from FP1
  9. Marcus Ericsson/Alfa Romeo Sauber – 1:30.478, -0.595 from FP1
  10. Brendon Hartley/Toro Rosso-Honda – 1:30.502, -1.406 from FP1
  11. Sergio Perez/Force India – 1:30.510, -0.762 from FP1
  12. Nico Hülkenberg/Renault – 1:30.644, -0.774 from FP1
  13. Pierre Gasly/Toro Rosso-Honda – 1:30.795, -0.278 from FP1
  14. Carlos Sainz Jr./Renault – 1:30.904, -0.196 from FP1
  15. Charles Leclerc/Alfa Romeo Sauber – 1:30.906, -0.023 from FP1
  16. Kevin Magnussen/Haas – 1:30.956, -0.318 from FP1
  17. Fernando Alonso/McLaren – 1:30.988, -1.046 from FP1
  18. Sergey Sirotkin/Williams – 1:31.087, -1.426 from FP1
  19. Lance Stroll/Williams – 1:31.215, -0.293 from FP1
  20. Stoffel Vandoorne/McLaren – 1:31.981 (No FP1 time)
  21. Lando Norris/McLaren – 1:32.683 (FP1 only)