Formula One: Hamilton leads comfortable Mercedes one-two in second practice at Japanese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has capped off a dominant day for Mercedes at Suzuka by topping the timesheets in second practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion was fastest in the morning session with a soft tyre time of 1:28.691 and lowered the mark to a blistering 1:28.217 in the afternoon when almost every driver opted to fit
the super-soft compound. Teammate Valtteri Bottas backed up his P2 from the morning by again setting the second quickest time, albeit 0.461s adrift of Hamilton.

After a disappointing first practice which saw Ferrari almost a second off the pace of Mercedes, the Scuderia wasted little time in the afternoon with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen two of the first drivers to emerge from the pit lane. Once a brief run on the soft compound was out of the way, Vettel switched back to the super-soft tyre -- which he had run for the majority of FP1 -- and managed the third quickest time, but crucially still 0.833s off Hamilton's session-topping lap.

This weekend's race in Japan is a must-win for Vettel and Ferrari if they are to stay alive in both the drivers' and constructors' world championships. As things stand, Vettel trails Hamilton by 50 points while Ferrari has fallen 53 points behind Mercedes.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen improved in the afternoon, despite a number of complaints, to finish fourth. The young Dutchman was only 0.207s off Vettel but 0.256s ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo in P6. Splitting the Red Bulls was the second Ferrari of Raikkonen.

For the second session running Force India's Esteban Ocon claimed best of the rest honours with an impressive P7 finish, 0.405s quicker than eighth-placed Romain Grosjean. Just behind the Haas was Marcus Ericsson who was the quicker Sauber driver in the afternoon while Brendon Hartley made a rare appearance in the top half of the timesheet with a P10 finish for Toro Rosso.

Sergio Perez put his Force India 11th just in front of Nico Hulkenberg's Renault with the opening practice sessions signaling that Sunday's race will once again be a tight battle amongst the midfield teams.

After being forced to spend the first 75 minutes inside the Toro Rosso garage as his mechanics investigated a fuel cell issue, Pierre Gasly eventually got out onto the track and managed P13 ahead of Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnuseen who is celebrating his 26th birthday.

The McLaren and Williams cars occupied the final four slots. Fernando Alonso was 17th, 2.771s down on former teammate Hamilton while Sergey Sirotkin got the better of Lance Stroll for P18. Stoffel Vandoorne, who sat out the morning session as Lando Norris took the wheel of his McLaren, finished last, 0.776s behind Stroll.


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