Hamilton fastest in first practice for Japanese Grand Prix

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Hamilton, who was comfortably fastest in both practice sessions at Suzuka on Friday, has recorded five victories from his last six outings to establish a dominant 50-point lead over Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton ended the day nearly half a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas, and 0.833s quicker than his chief title rival Sebastian Vettel.

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).

Toto Wolff has dismissed suggestions that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have both titles wrapped up after building sizeable leads in both the drivers' and constructors' championships with five rounds to go.

One man unlikely to be revelling in Hamilton's fine form is Vettel, who heads into the race with the title battle out of his hands for the first time this year.

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After his fastest time was 0.833s shy of Hamilton in second practice, Vettel did not appear confident about securing pole position on Saturday.

However, one concern was tyre wear after delivering blisters on his P2 long-run: "We were sliding a bit too much when the temperatures go up".

"I just have to stay on it, keep working", Hamilton said.

"Every time we come to Suzuka, particularly over the past few years, the cars just get faster and faster", Hamilton said.

"I've just been giving thanks all day today just because this is what I've always wanted to do", he said.

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"Straight away I was much, much better than I've ever been through those particular corners". Obviously it's a monster lap and you always think there is a bit more here and there.

"In the end we tried something on the vehicle that seemed to give us a bit better feeling, so let's see if we can get it together tomorrow and find something else".

"We'll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow".

"It's also going to be a lot warmer in the race, so that will be different, but at least we got enough running already in dry conditions, so it doesn't matter if it's wet tomorrow".

However, neither issue made much difference to Hamilton's crushing dominance and the pace shown by Mercedes suggests they will be favourites to lock up the front row in Saturday's qualifying, as they did in Russian Federation last week.

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What Hamilton is convinced about is that much of the progress made at Mercedes has come from the team having properly unlocked all the potential in its auto.

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