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Japanese GP: Vettel lays down early marker at Suzuka

2017-10-06 06:50

Image: AP

Japan - Sebastian Vettel posted the quickest time Friday in a crash-hit first free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix as Mercedes and Red Bull also showed impressive early pace.

Vettel , 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.

Hamilton clocked the next quickest time, 0.2 seconds behind Vettel in dry conditions, before Carlos Sainz rammed into a wall and brought a temporary halt to proceedings with half an hour left.

As it happened: 2017 Japanese GP - 1st Practice

Australian Daniel Ricciardo roared to a 1min29.541 lap after bolting on the super-soft tyres, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was the only other driver to break 1:30 despite complaining of overheating brakes.

Vettel's time came after the removal of Sainz's battered vehicle, the four-time world champion pointing his finger angrily at Sauber's Marcus Ericsson as he crossed the line.

Valtteri Bottas registered a 1min30.151 for Mercedes with Red Bull's Max Verstappen -- who ambushed Hamilton to win in Malaysia last weekend -- sixth fastest.

Vettel, who finished fourth in Sepang after starting from the back of the grid, faces a must-win race at the fearsome figure-of-eight Japanese circuit, where he won four times with Red Bull.

Verstappen had a fright as he slid off onto the gravel before Sainz smashed into a tyre wall after exiting the hairpin, mangling his Toro Rosso and bringing out the red flags.

"I don't know what happened. I lost the car," said the Spaniard over the radio before climbing out of the wreckage unhurt.

Esteban Ocon's Force India and Nico Hulkenberg in a Renault were seventh and eighth quickest, while Romain Grosjean's Haas and the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top 10.

Rain has also been forecast for the afternoon's second free practice.

2017 Japanese Grand Prix: Leading lap times from first practice

1. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 1min29.166 
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1min29.377 
3. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) 1min29.541
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) 1min29.638 
5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1min30.151 
6. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1min30.762 
7. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) 1min30.899 
8. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Renault) 1min30.974 
9. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) 1min31.032 
10. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) 1min31.202 
11. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) 1min31.216 
12. Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren) 1min31.235 
13. Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) 1min31.530 
14. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) 1min31.602 
15. Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault) 1min31.757 
16. Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) 1min31.912 
17. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso) 1min32.252 
18. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Toro Rosso) 1min32.501 
19. Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Sauber) 1min32.897 
20. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 1min33.397 


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