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FP1 - Vettel throws down early gauntlet in Japan

06 Oct 2017

Sebastian Vettel narrowly edged Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo in a closely-fought practice session interrupted by a heavy crash for Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz on Friday morning at Suzuka.


Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari 1:29.166 23
2 44 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:29.377 +0.211s 29
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RIC Red Bull Racing 1:29.541 +0.375s 27
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen RAI Ferrari 1:29.638 +0.472s 22
5 77 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes 1:30.151 +0.985s 30
6 33 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:30.762 +1.596s 26
7 31 Esteban Ocon OCO Force India 1:30.899 +1.733s 22
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Renault 1:30.974 +1.808s 24
9 8 Romain Grosjean GRO Haas 1:31.032 +1.866s 22
10 2 Stoffel Vandoorne VAN McLaren 1:31.202 +2.036s 24

With rain forecast for the afternoon, teams wasted no time getting up to speed - leading to several changes at the top as Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull once again proved incredibly evenly matched.

Vettel eventually settled matters in the Scuderia's favour with a late flyer of 1m 29.166s on Pirelli's supersoft tyres - just over two-tenths quicker than Hamilton's best. Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen were fractions further down the road, meaning the top four drivers - comprising three teams - were all covered by less than half a second.

Vettel's best time came shortly after Sainz violently hit the barriers exiting the Turn 11 hairpin. The Spaniard inadvertently dropped a rear wheel on the dirt exiting the left-hander, flicking his Toro Rosso sideways and sending it spearing into the inside tyre wall. Sainz, who carries a 20-place grid penalty into Sunday's race, was unhurt, although his car suffered extensive damage.

At that point it was Hamilton who had set the pace, a few hundredths ahead of Vettel - but with the latter yet to complete a run on the supersoft. When the session resumed Ferrari duly sent out both their drivers on the red-marked compound, with Vettel surging ahead - his time eclipsing the official lap record, and coming close to the quickest ever lap of Suzuka, dating back to Michael Schumacher and 2006.

A late spell of rain ensured Vettel's time went unchallenged over the final five minutes.

Valtteri Bottas finished fifth in the second Mercedes, albeit almost a second back from Vettel - while Max Verstappen paid the price for a wild moment at Spoon that consigned him to sixth in the second Red Bull. The Dutchman also experienced charging issues on a subsequent attempt to improve.

Esteban Ocon led the rest of the pack in seventh, with the Force India man leading a tight chain of cars comprising Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, Haas's Romain Grosjean and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.

Kevin Magnussen backed up a strong showing for Haas by edging McLaren's Fernando Alonso for 11th, despite being kept in the garage for much of the opening half of the session by a water pressure issue.

Sainz eventually wound up 17th, one spot and a few tenths ahead of Toro Rosso team mate Pierre Gasly.

WATCH: FP1 Summary

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