Lewis Hamilton once again blew his rivals into the weeds as Friday’s Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix practice action drew to a close at the Suzuka Circuit.
The Englishman, fastest by some margin in the earlier FP1 session, repeated the dose on Friday afternoon with a stylish Supersoft-shod lap of 1:28.217. His margin over teammate Valtteri Bottas, who again ensured a Mercedes 1-2 lockout of the practice timesheets today, was over four-tenths of a second.
Hamilton’s margin over his chief championship rival Sebastian Vettel – who lies 50 points behind the Briton with five Grands Prix to go in 2018 – was simply staggering: 0.833 seconds. The German had no answers to the pace of the Silver Arrows, although Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was at pains to stress the red cars were probably sandbagging. Few people are actually likely to believe him.
Max Verstappen finished the session fourth-fastest although the Dutch driver was clearly unhappy with his Red Bull Racing’s “rallycross” style handling. After outpacing him in FP1, teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished two spots behind on the timesheets in sixth with the pair sandwiching the second Ferrari of fifth-placed Kimi Räikkönen.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was once again at the top of the ‘best of the rest’ standings among the midfield and, as was the case in FP1, he outpaced the Haas Ferrari of his French countryman Romain Grosjean. This time, however, the margin between the two had increased to four-tenths of a second.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson looks determined to end his final races as the Swiss team’s full-time driver in style by going one better than his earlier practice effort and posted the ninth-fastest time overall.
The under-fire Brendon Hartley finished a confidence-boosting tenth-fastest in his Honda-powered Toro Rosso. Teammate Pierre Gasly did not fare as well and lost vital track time during the session while a fuel pump issue was fixed. The Frenchman eventually managed to get out on track for 10 laps to clock the thirteenth-fastest time overall.
|FORMULA 1 2018 HONDA JAPANESE GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:28.217||31|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:28.678||+ 0.461||30|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:29.050||+ 0.833||36|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||1:29.257||+ 1.040||32|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:29.498||+ 1.281||33|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||1:29.513||+ 1.296||27|
|7.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:30.035||+ 1.818||32|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:30.440||+ 2.223||32|
|9.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:30.478||+ 2.261||33|
|10.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:30.502||+ 2.285||27|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:30.510||+ 2.293||28|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:30.644||+ 2.427||36|
|13.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:30.795||+ 2.578||10|
|14.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:30.904||+ 2.687||31|
|15.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:30.906||+ 2.689||26|
|16.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:30.956||+ 2.739||25|
|17.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:30.988||+ 2.771||34|
|18.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:31.087||+ 2.870||39|
|19.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:31.215||+ 2.998||32|
|20.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:31.981||+ 3.764||32|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team