Lewis Hamilton leads the way in first practice at Japanese Grand Prix

Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton dominates practice but Mercedes insist Ferrari are holding back

Hamilton loving life after sweeping Friday practice in Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has told Ferrari to focus extracting the maximum potential from its own vehicle and ignore the advantage enjoyed by Mercedes in Friday practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton heads into this weekend with a 50 point lead of title rival Sebastian Vettel, and the four-time World Champion thought there would be more from the German and his team.

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, nearly half-a-second quicker than team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

In FP2, Hamilton continued to set the pace, posting 1:28.217 on supersoft tyres.

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It was a supreme day in the vehicle for Hamilton, who led team-mate Valtteri Bottas by four tenths in both sessions.

Hamilton pounded out fastest lap after fastest lap to leave Ferrari and Red Bull deflated, finding extra tenths where other drivers struggled at the iconic Japanese circuit, where top speeds reach 328kph (203mph). "So I wasn't expecting that", Hamilton said after the day's action. "It's incredible. The track is just.they don't make tracks like this any more".

The 5.8-km Suzuka circuit's unique figure-of-eight layout with its fast, undulating sweeps is a firm favourite with the drivers. I was much better than I had ever been through those particular corners.

"I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit", he told Sky Sports F1, suggesting that Ferrarti had turned down their engines a bit on Friday.

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"We have some work to do ahead of tomorrow", said Verstappen.

Its situation appears far from ideal, however, with both Vettel and Raikkonen suffering blisters during their long runs on Friday afternoon.

While it is too early for Hamilton's seemingly inevitable championship coronation to take place in Japan on Sunday evening, only a meltdown by team or driver stand in the way of glory this season. We know what the vehicle can do.

"It always gets more intense in Qualifying, so we're going to work just as hard as usual to find all the improvements we can. We couldn't do that today but it doesn't matter what they do, we look at ourselves and try to get the best from our package". "If we can grasp pole, great, but if not we need to be right behind".

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"But overall, it has been a clean Friday, no interruptions, no issue with the auto or anything", added Vettel. "My team and I, we're working so well together in fine-tuning this auto".

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