Hamilton and Mercedes remain on top at Suzuka

Hamilton and Mercedes remain on top at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton: Photo: Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton was on top for the second session in a row for the Japanese Grand Prix. But this time had more than eight-tenths of a second in hand over Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. None of Mercedes’ other rivals got within a second of them.

Hamilton’s fastest lap in 1m28.217s provided him with a 0.461s margin over Valtteri Bottas. While Vettel, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top five. Suzuka remained overcast as the second free practice session got underway, but with no real threat of rain fortunately.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were the first to hit the track when the light went green, the Belgian driver beginning his Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in earnest after sitting out FP1 when Lando Norris occupied the seat of his MCL32.

With a deficit to make up on the impressive Mercedes, Vettel laid down the first significant time with a 1m29.971s. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen was just 0.032s slower.

Mercedes, Red Bull and Gasly remained in their respective garage in the first 15 minutes of running.

While Hamilton and Bottas were still in preparation mode, the Toro Rosso driver’s state of affairs appeared more alarming, his car the victim of an apparent sensor issue.

Once he got going, Hamilton lost no time in putting himself at the top of the timesheet. The Brit laying down a lap in 1m29.005s using the soft tyre and edging Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

A change to the supersoft unsurprisingly boosted Hamilton’s speed even further, giving him a comfortable cushion of 0.461s over Bottas with a lap in 1m28.217.

Meanwhile, it was once again a tight battle in the upper tier of the midfield. Ocon, Grosjean, Ericsson and Hartley were separated by less than a tenth of a second.

With just ten minutes to go and the work on his car finally complete, Pierre Gasly exited the Toro Rosso box, a lap in 1m30.795s putting him P13, between Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz.

The field blended qualifying simulations with long runs in the closing stages of the session. There was little consolation for Ferrari in the long runs at the end of the session either. Vettel reported blistering on both rear tyres during his run on the super-softs, which Ferrari have brought more sets of than any team.