Vettel lays down early marker for Japan Formula One GP

Sebastian Vettel is second in the standings but is struggling to catch Hamilton at the top

Sebastian Vettel is second in the standings but is struggling to catch Hamilton at the top

Speaking to media at the Suzuka circuit on Thursday, Hamilton said he will go to "war" to ensure he can overcome his car's uncharacteristically inconsistent performance to hold off championship rival and Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel.

"It was important for me because the vehicle feels different in practice one to last week, massively, massively different".

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It was the Force India duo of Ocon and Perez who were first to set timed laps as we headed into the final 30 minutes, yet their time at the top did not last long as Hamilton took seven tenths out of the former's best lap of 1.49:5. "I'm glad that we had the dry session for first practice". And in the rain at the last race we were like over 2s off, the auto was bad, so it was important for me just to go out and double check if that's still the case here.

Vettel, who trails Hamilton by 34 points with five of the 20 races left this season, gave his fading title hopes a boost with a lightning late dash in the morning as the rain began to fall.

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A first and third Malaysia finish for Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo demonstrated their mid-season form surge has continued apace, and both drivers will look to play spoiler with a auto that seems at least on a par with the Mercedes and Ferrari, despite a Renault power unit that still lacks the punch of its rivals. The fans are pretty special here - to be out there in the rain. "And hopefully one or the other things work out to our advantage", said the German four-time world champion.

The German further pointed out that the auto is working really well and that it is upto them to focus on improving their performances. But we know they will always go a lot quicker so we need to find a few more tenths if we want to battle with them in the dry on Sunday.

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Then they were using a new aerodynamic package that was meant to generate more downforce, but it took a while to sort out and Hamilton eventually reverted to his Singapore configuration to take pole position and finish second to Max Verstappen's Red Bull.

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