Lewis Hamilton delivered a psychological blow to Sebastian Vettel’s fading Formula One title hopes as the Briton dominated Friday’s free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.
But the reigning world champion, who leads his Ferrari rival by 50 points with five races left this season, survived a close shave in the morning session at Suzuka when he deftly avoided smashing his Mercedes into Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso.
Hamilton went on to clock a fastest time of one minute, 28.691 seconds before the Briton produced a sizzling lap of 1:28.217 to top the timesheets in the afternoon, almost half-a-second quicker than team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“This track is awesome,” whooped Hamilton over team radio. “I’m having the best day!”
Vettel was third fastest, more than 0.8 seconds off the pace, as he prepares for what is looking increasingly like a must-win race for the German.
Hamilton’s only scare came in a bizarre incident early on when he was forced to react sharply to avoid smashing into the back of Gasly’s dawdling car on entry to the chicane.—APP