Japanese GP, Practice One: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ahead
By James Galloway at Suzuka
Last Updated: 04/12/18 5:14pm
Lewis Hamilton made the fastest start to the Japanese GP weekend as impressive Mercedes retained their position at the top of the timesheet from Sochi in Practice One at Suzuka.
Hamilton, the championship leader by 50 points, used the soft tyre to outpace team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.446s - with Sebastian Vettel fifth for Ferrari, nearly a second back despite using the quickest supersoft compound.
Bottas' second-fastest time was also impressive as he used the slowest compound available, the medium.
"Mercedes are looking very dominant. We need to see Vettel back on form," said Sky F1's Paul di Resta.
Red Bull were ahead of Ferrari with Daniel Ricciardo third fastest on supersofts on a weekend he believes they can challenge for the podium.
Hamilton, initially running the medium before switching to the softs, was immediately on the pace around a circuit he has won twice at in the last three years - although suffered a scare at the chicane when he had to take swift evasive action to avoid crashing into a dawdling Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly.
Gasly was handed a reprimand by stewards after the session.
With Suzuka one of the narrowest and challenging circuits on the calendar, drivers usually find mistakes are punished more than normal and Fernando Alonso spun his McLaren into the gravel after putting a wheel onto the grass entering the first Degner corners.
The Spaniard managed to avoid both the barriers and getting his car beached in the gravel, although still finished only 18th quickest.
British teenager Lando Norris was slowest of all on his fourth P1 appearance since the summer break with McLaren again trying to work on solutions for their car's problems.
McLaren's former engine suppliers, Honda, have reintroduced their upgraded engine for their home race amid whispers that the Japanese manufacturer have found up to half a second in performance.
Toro Rosso ran the units in P1, with Pierre Gasly 11th fastest in their lead car.
There was little to separate the leading midfield cars in opening practice, with Force India's Esteban Ocon leading that particular battle in seventh for Force India. Romain Grosjean was eighth in the lead Haas car ahead of Sauber pair Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson.
Japanese GP Practice One Timesheet
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:28.691||Softs|
|2) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+0.446||Mediums|
|3) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.682||Supersofts|
|4) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+0.936||Supersofts|
|5) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+0.994||Supersofts|
|6) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.150||Supersofts|
|7) Esteban Ocon||Force India||+1.900||Supersofts|
|8) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+2.123||Supersofts|
|9) Charles Leclerc||Sauber||+2.238||Supersofts|
|10) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+2.382||Supersofts|
|11) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+2.382||Softs|
|12) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+2.409||Supersofts|
|13) Sergio Perez||Force India||+2.581||Supersofts|
|14) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+2.583||Supersofts|
|15) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+2.727||Supersofts|
|16) Lance Stroll||Williams||+2.817||Supersofts|
|17) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+3.217||Supersofts|
|18) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+3.343||Mediums|
|19) Sergey Sirotkin||Williams||+3.822||Supersofts|
|20) Lando Norris||McLaren||+3.992||Mediums|
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