Vettel denies team has lost direction ahead of crucial Japanese GP

Posted October 09, 2018

Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by 50 points in the championship, while five races remain in the 2018 Formula 1 season.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton said Thursday he still had mixed feelings after being gift-wrapped a controversial win by Mercedes in Russian Federation last weekend.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel completed the top three behind the Mercedes duo, but the German -trailing Hamilton by 50 points coming into this event - couldn't get anywhere near his championship rival, finishing 0.833s behind the pacesetter, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen over a second off the pace in fourth.

The Briton was in a league of his own, lapping almost half a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas in both sessions.

".they don't make tracks like this any more".

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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", he declared. "I think we know what the auto can do". If we can grasp pole tomorrow, that's great, but if not we need to be there just right behind and see what happens.

"I think I've said many times that we have a strong vehicle, but I don't think, against the people's opinions, that we had a dominant auto at any point this year", the German said.

Hamilton, who whizzed into the pits on his scooter 10 minutes after the start of the morning's free practice, survived a hairy moment early on, reacting superbly to avoid smashing into Pierre Gasly's dawdling Toro Rosso on entry to the chicane.

"We made progress with our cars, the steps that we planned, the steps have been coming".

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Validating his theory, Wolff continued: "In the morning they were quicker through nearly every corner but they had a softer tyre".

Hamilton says the pace turnaround between Mercedes and Ferrari has been a surprise, but he does not think the explanation comes from any new parts on the auto. "In the race I think it was very close and I think it has been very close all year". "I wasn't totally satisfied with the feeling in the auto today".

"It has been a clean Friday", insisted Vettel, despite complaining of blistering tyres. "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". Obviously it's a monster lap and you always think there is a bit more here and there.

"We need to keep pushing and try", the Ferrari driver said.

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