Suzuka Practice 1: Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two

Lewis Hamilton topped FP1 at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton topped FP1 at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two at the top of the timesheets on Friday in free practice for what could be a title-deciding Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who will secure his fourth successive F1 championship if he wins on Sunday and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fails to finish in the top eight, was third fastest.

Alonso, 77 points adrift of the German with five races remaining, was sixth in a session that saw four teams fill the top eight places in pairs – with the Mercedes duo leading the two Red Bulls, then the Ferrari and Lotus pairings.

Hamilton’s best time of one minute 34.157 seconds, on a gloriously sunny day at the Honda-owned circuit overlooked by its giant Ferris wheel, was set on the Hard tyre and was 0.330 quicker than Nico Rosberg’s.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in FP1

The times compared to the fastest lap in last year’s opening practice of 1:34.507.

Vettel, who is chasing his fifth win in a row and has been on pole position in the last three events, was 0.611 off the 2008 champion’s pace with Australian team mate Mark Webber fourth.

Webber is using a new chassis after retiring at last weekend’s Korean Grand Prix with his car in flames after being hit by Force India’s Adrian Sutil.

Vettel has won three of the last four races at Suzuka, a favourite track where he won the 2011 title and can count on a large contingent of local fans.

Brazilian Felipe Massa, runner-up at Suzuka last year, was fifth fastest ahead of Alonso while Romain Grosjean went quicker than Lotus team mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa was 4th fastest in FP1

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who replaces Webber at Red Bull in 2014, broke up the two-by-two sequence with a lap that sandwiched him between the two McLarens of Mexican Sergio Perez and Jenson Button.

The main incidents came from those well down the pecking order, with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado parking up at the Spoon curve when his left rear wheel came off and bounced across the track.

Marussia’s French driver Jules Bianchi, who has a meaningless 10 place grid penalty for the race after collecting a third reprimand of the season in South Korea last weekend, and Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde ended up in the tyre wall at Degner. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.


Jules Bianchi's wrecked Marussia is recovered

Jules Bianchi’s wrecked Marussia is recovered

Japanese Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 – Friday 11 October 2013

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.157 19
2 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.487 0.330 19
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.768 0.611 24
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.787 0.630 20
5 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.126 0.969 14
6 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.154 0.997 16
7 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:35.179 1.022 15
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:35.364 1.207 17
9 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.450 1.293 27
10 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:35.635 1.478 19
11 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.868 1.711 22
12 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.900 1.743 18
13 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:36.066 1.909 20
14 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.165 2.008 19
15 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:36.178 2.021 12
16 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:36.340 2.183 23
17 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:36.399 2.242 18
18 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.760 2.603 22
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:37.595 3.438 22
20 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.629 3.472 8
21 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:38.025 3.868 15
22 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.763 4.606 18
Content on by: staff & contributors, Reuters syndication, GMM service, Getty Images, Formula 1 teams, sponsors & organisations.