Hammer time in Japan for defiant Hamilton

Hammer time in Japan for defiant Hamilton

Hammer time in Japan for defiant Hamilton

The German, who trails Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by 34 points with five races left this season, steered his Ferrari to a fastest lap of one minute, 29.166 seconds in light drizzle at Suzuka. And in the rain at the last race we were like over 2s off - the auto was bad, so it was important for me just to go out and double check if that's still the case here.

"But we need to see how their race pace is". He was unable to minimise the cost, however, with both Red Bull's beating the Finn to fourth and fifth at a circuit Ferrari should expect to be the next quickest behind Mercedes. But Ferrari have failed to make the most of Mercedes' struggles.

Vettel had a new engine for Sepang and the four times victor in Japan will expect to be quick on Sunday, with fears for his car's gearbox subsiding since he and Canadian Lance Stroll collided on the post-race slowing down lap.

Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be keen to build on their victory in Malaysia and will be encouraged by their pace against the Silver Arrows last weekend.

He expects his vehicle to perform much better in the cooler conditions this weekend in Japan.

Hamilton immediately set a 1m27.819s time which became a new lap record at Suzuka, with Vettel coming in behind him.

As the season counts down to the final four races of the campaign, Hamilton is looking over his shoulder, with a four-time champion breathing down his neck in a very fast vehicle.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain takes off his glove during qualifying for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Hamilton's 1:27.312 was 1.5 seconds quicker than title rival Sebastian Vettel who'll start second.

There were already positives for him going into the weekend, with Ferrari saying his gearbox was undamaged in a weird collision with Williams rookie Lance Stroll on the cool down lap after the Malaysian race.

For tomorrow's race, the following drivers have grid penalties, Bottas (5 places), Raikkonen (5 places) and Alonso (35 places). "I am hoping if it starts to swing the other way we have enough force to push it back to where it should be". "This year it's different".

"There needs to be a proper element of garden leave before he takes all that knowledge to another team", said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Ricciardo and Verstappen also benefit, each moving up one spot to start from the second row. We have all the right ingredients - now we have to bring it to the track. But we're certainly close.

For our pick, a dry race is scheduled for race day and with very few retirements recorded at this race over the past years so I am backing over 16.5 drivers to be classified at the end of the race.

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