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Red Bull dominate first day practice sessions in Japan

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Japanese GP second practice

By Richard Rae

Red Bull appear to be firm favourites for the Japanese Grand Prix after topping the timing sheets in both Friday's practice sessions.

Sebastian Vettel finished four-tenths of a second faster than team-mate Mark Webber, with Renault's Robert Kubica another four-tenths back in third.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who crashed out in first practice, missed most of the second session.

However rain forecast for Saturday could turn qualifying into a lottery.

As during the morning session, conditions were warm and dry when the cars came out for second practice.

The main interest lay in whether Ferrari, having kept their race pace carefully hidden during first practice, could show they had the basic speed to mount a serious challenge to the Red Bulls around Suzuka's sweeping high-speed corners.

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There was also the question of how much running Hamilton could squeeze in after completing just nine laps before knocking a wheel off his McLaren when he crashed into a tyre barrier early in first practice.

While the McLaren engineers worked frantically to repair Hamilton's car, Webber and Vettel swapped fastest laps on both the hard prime and soft option tyres.

With half an hour remaining Kubica was third fastest, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa in fourth and fifth.

Required to shoulder the burden of the entire McLaren test programme, Jenson Button was sixth fastest. The teams settled into race runs, with Vettel's fastest time of 1.31.46 putting him four-tenths of a second clear of Webber, with 1.31.680, and Kubica on 1.32.20.

Only eight minutes remained when Hamilton finally emerged from the the pit-lane, with his McLaren on soft tyres, for a data-accumulating five lap run with a heavy fuel load. His fastest effort left him 13th, over two seconds behind Vettel.

But with even Alonso almost a second off the pace, McLaren may not be the only team pinning their hopes on the weather giving them a gambler's chance in qualifying.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton 'pushing too hard too early'

However Vettel warned Red Bull would be equally hard to beat on a wet track. "The car was reliable and I had a good feeling, the pace looks okay too," he said.

"The forecast suggests rain, but there's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive in the wet. The conditions have been quite inconsistent during all the wet races that we've had so far this year, so it's hard to know what everyone's pace will be."

Hamilton admitted he had 'probably been pushing too hard, too soon'.

"It wasn't even that big an 'off', it was just unfortunate that the gravel was really very slippery at that point," he said. "You've seen a couple of other people went off there and got away with it.

"But a lot of time was lost. Nevertheless, tomorrow's another day and it's going to rain, so I guess everyone's going to start again."

After crashing out in both of the last two Grands Prix, the Briton is clearly hoping he has used up his share of bad luck.

Button, who followed Hamilton off at the Degner Curves but escaped undamaged, admitted he had been fortunate.

"It's very difficult to see the apex kerb there, because of the colour, the sun is quite bright there and it's bumpy as well, so to focus is very tricky and our car is bouncing around a lot, especially though that corner, putting us off line and onto the kerb.

"We were very similar in what we did except that I was spinning before I got to the corner and Lewis carried through the corner speed and ended up in the walls."

Alonso counselled patience.

"In theory Red Bull look unbeatable here, as they always have done, except in Monza and also there were various races where come Sunday, they were beaten, so again that's a reason to wait before drawing any conclusions," said the Spaniard.

Lewis Hamilton crashes in first practice

Highlights - Japanese GP first practice



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see also
Hamilton suffers practice crash
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso not worried by Suzuka rain
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Next two races critical - Vettel
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese GP practice as it happened
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix practice results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Alonso declares himself favourite
07 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton eyes championship charge
07 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren duo 'still in title hunt'
06 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Sauber sign Perez as new driver
04 Oct 10 |  Formula 1


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