Hamilton 'wasn't expecting' big gap to Ferrari

Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton dominates practice but Mercedes insist Ferrari are holding back

Lewis Hamilton said he was having the "best day" after the Formula One champion dominated both practice sessions at the Japanese Grand Prix.

It was a supreme day in the vehicle for Hamilton, who led team-mate Valtteri Bottas by four tenths in both sessions.

"Every time we come to Suzuka, the cars just get faster and faster".

"This track is awesome", he whooped over the team radio. "I am having the best day".

"I am glad you're enjoying it", his engineer, Pete Bonnington, replied. I was much better than I had ever been through those particular corners.

"As the season progresses you hope that you can improve, and usually you do get better, but I didn't know I was going to improve in the way that I have".

"It has been a clean Friday, no issues with the vehicle". We can still improve.

"We know what the vehicle can do and we need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position. Through the Esses they are a bit quicker and the rest is us, so it's neck and neck even though the lap time seems to show a larger gap".

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We were back on track even after we had to change Milly [ James Milner ] which you never want to do, especially in the first half. As for what it means for the standings, there is now a three-way tie for first with teams having records of 6-2-0.

"We need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position".

While their deficit has rarely been as large as this at the end of the opening day, Ferrari have consistently tended to not show their full had until Saturday when the auto is run at full pelt.

Valtteri Bottas feels his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team are at a "good starting point" ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix. Today, I think we were probably both sliding a little bit too much and therefore damaging the tyres probably a bit more than others. "Obviously you don't want to commit suicide so I think if we attack we still try to be reasonable".

Similar to Russian Federation a week ago, Vettel says there are no obvious weaknesses where Ferrari is lacking at Suzuka but felt there was progress made during the day that gives him reason to be positive about the rest of the weekend.

Ricciardo set a 1m29.373s to lap three tenths clear of Ferrari, though Raikkonen was able to steal ahead of his team-mate because Vettel lost time in the final corner behind Pierre Gasly. "If we can grasp pole, great, but if not we need to be right behind".

The title battle continues at this weekend's Japanese GP - watch LIVE on Sky Sports F1.

Although Suzuka is expected to again suit the Red Bulls, Mercedes have won the last four races in Japan, three courtesy of Hamilton, and will be favourites to extend that run.

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