Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas continued to set the pace in second practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. The two Mercedes drivers were significantly faster than the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who was eight tenths off the pace of the Englishman.
Hamilton who leads Vettel by fifty points, was significantly faster despite him setting his fastest time on the slower soft tyre, while Vettel was on the faster supersoft. His Mercedes team have made a huge jump forward since the start of the Asia/Russia leg winning the last three races.
Meanwhile, Ferrari’s season appears to be falling away. Vettel did, however, bring down the pace deficit to Mercedes however the German was still eight tenths off Hamilton’s overall pace. This weekend could be the point of no return for Vettel’s hopes of a fifth title.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth fastest, the Dutchman, however, struggled with his car. Verstappen was two tenths off Vettel, despite struggling with his car he remained two and a half tenths faster than teammate Daniel Ricciardo, in. sixth.
Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean continued to lead the best of the rest in seventh and eighth, with half a second between the two Frenchman. It was another strong showing from Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson in ninth.
The Swede, without a drive for 2019, showed that Sauber is continuing to move forward with the on-track performance as he outpaced teammate Charles Leclerc, fifteenth, by four-tenths of a second.
Brendon Hartley was tenth for Toro Rosso, with Pierre Gasly thirteenth. It, however, was not the start that the Honda-powered team wanted at the manufacturers home race, title sponsor and own circuit, after the Frenchman suffered a fuel issue.
Gasly finished thirteenth, but there will be reliability concerns from his team who are expecting a major boost at Honda’s home race. The Frenchman missed the first half of the session.
Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg remained eleventh and twelfth, unable to match the strong pace by Perez’s teammate Ocon. The Mexican missing out on a place in the top ten by just eight-thousandths of a second.
Carlos Sainz was thirteenth ahead of Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen.
It was another difficult session for both Williams and Mclaren, Fernando Alonso the fastest of the four, but two and three quarters of a second off Hamilton’s overall pace.
Stoffel Vandoorne more than a second adrift of his team-mate Fernando Alonso. The Belgian, set to leave F1 at the end of the season, propped up the timesheets.