Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2017

Vettel leads Hamilton as Sainz crash holds up first practice

2017 Japanese Grand Prix first practice

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Championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton headed the times in the first practice session, which was held up by a heavy crash for Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 2017
Japanese GP practice in pictures
The teams’ running was interrupted when Sainz hit the barrier 51 minutes into the session. The Toro Rosso driver ran wide at the hairpin and hit the barrier on the inside of the track, badly damaging the front of his car.

Sainz was able to climb out of his STR12 but the Medical Car was sent to retrieve him. The delay cost the teams over a quarter of an hour of running in a session which began on a dry track but ended with rain beginning to fall.

Hamilton set the early benchmark time with a lap of 1’39.377 on the super-soft tyres but Vettel was able to get within a few hundredths of a second of that on the harder soft compound rubber. The Ferrari driver had just gone out for a lap on the super-softs when Sainz crashed, but he completed his run when the session resumed and lapped two-tenths of a second inside his rival’s best time.

Daniel Ricciardo made it three different cars within four-tenths of a second of each other in the top three. Their team mates followed in the same order. Kimi Raikkonen complained of brake locking on his way to fourth, Valtteri Bottas had a ragged moment at Degner 2 and was fifth, and Max Verstappen had a run through the gravel at Spoon and took sixth.

Four other teams were represented in the top ten courtesy of Esteban Ocon’s Force India, Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren.

Kevin Magnussen was 11th-quickest in the other Haas but had to pit twice due to suspected problems with his Ferrari power unit,

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
15Sebastian VettelFerrari1’29.16623
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’29.3770.21129
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’29.5410.37527
47Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’29.6380.47222
577Valtteri BottasMercedes1’30.1510.98530
633Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’30.7621.59626
731Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’30.8991.73322
827Nico HulkenbergRenault1’30.9741.80824
98Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’31.0321.86622
102Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’31.2022.03624
1120Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’31.2162.05015
1214Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’31.2352.06919
1311Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’31.5302.36423
1418Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’31.6022.43622
1530Jolyon PalmerRenault1’31.7572.59122
1619Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’31.9122.74620
1755Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’32.2523.08614
1810Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Renault1’32.5013.33518
1994Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’32.8973.73129
209Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’33.3974.23128

First practice visual gaps

Sebastian Vettel – 1’29.166

+0.211 Lewis Hamilton – 1’29.377

+0.375 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’29.541

+0.472 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’29.638

+0.985 Valtteri Bottas – 1’30.151

+1.596 Max Verstappen – 1’30.762

+1.733 Esteban Ocon – 1’30.899

+1.808 Nico Hulkenberg – 1’30.974

+1.866 Romain Grosjean – 1’31.032

+2.036 Stoffel Vandoorne – 1’31.202

+2.050 Kevin Magnussen – 1’31.216

+2.069 Fernando Alonso – 1’31.235

+2.364 Sergio Perez – 1’31.530

+2.436 Lance Stroll – 1’31.602

+2.591 Jolyon Palmer – 1’31.757

+2.746 Felipe Massa – 1’31.912

+3.086 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’32.252

+3.335 Pierre Gasly – 1’32.501

+3.731 Pascal Wehrlein – 1’32.897

+4.231 Marcus Ericsson – 1’33.397

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Vettel leads Hamilton as Sainz crash holds up first practice”

  1. Well, Mercedes may not be the strongest team, but it looks far better than malaysia at this point.

  2. That Ferrari is a threat to Lewis Championship. He’s gotta hold everything together. It’s only now i truly realize Ferrari been the fastest car of 2017. The drivers made the difference, Vettel screws up a lot when someone is beating him.

    1. I was actually trying to tally the races where Ferrari have been quicker this year, and it actually seemed like they’ve been the better car all season. Even if they weren’t the quickest in qualifying, they were quicker on more Sundays than the Mercedes squad.

      This is the best challenger Ferrari has produced since 2008, and if Vettel doesn’t seal the title this year, he has no one but himself to blame .

      1. So salty!

    2. Ferrari have been more often quicker in race craft compared to Mercedes, but Mercedes have had the advantage in qualifying in most races (with exception of street circuits), and this is what handed them huge advantage going into race. These cars are probably impossible to overtake if you are quicker by say 3 tenths, especially if the car in front has Merc engine in back (pure examples are Russia, Austria, Belgium). When you add Vettel contact in Canada, hot head in Baku, tyre failure at Silverstone, Singapore clash, Malaysia engine problem, it is obvious he did not have a clean season, while Hamilton had Austria gearbox and Baku headrest. Vettel did some mistakes this season, but him and Hamilton in general were in their own league this season, and both should be commended for that.

      1. @caljub, if you’ve only got an advantage of a few tenths, it is going to be difficult to overtake in any moderately professional series with any car – it’s really not that big of an advantage, so it wouldn’t be that hard to defend.

      2. To me it seems that had Ferrari better executed some weekends (and with a driver who is motivated and capable of good results in the second car too) they would have been the car to beat.

        Now they just threw too many points away with curious strategy as well as reliability issues and driver mess ups.

    3. @Tone P It’s FIA who’s a thread to Hamilton/Mercedes championship. If you see the amount of stuff Vettel/Ferrari get away with then it’s clear FIA tries any it can to benefit Vettel/Ferrari.

      1. Noname….. +1 on your comment, and I’m not a Hamilton fan, id be a fanatical neutral.
        If kyvat or some other drivers conducted themselves like vettel this season the penalties would have been monumental.

  3. I am not one to bash a driver but can someone explain what is wrong with Bottas the last 4? races. He seems completely off the pace and slow. I know it’s just friday but still….

    1. The car is probably a handful.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      6th October 2017, 8:38

      I don’t know why you include Italy. He finished behind Hamilton but was within 5 seconds pretty much the entire race. Hamilton did enough to keep him behind, but there was no proof Hamilton was much better that day. Mercedes confirmed that they both their engines had been turned down. In qualifying, I can agree Bottas has been off the pace over the last 4. I do think that this upgrade not working out has something to do with Bottas being so far behind Hamilton last weekend. Mercedes usually improve more than the other cars in Q3 over Q2 and Bottas was the only driver who didn’t. Both his runs looked decent enough though. He was about as fast as Hamilton in P2 and ahead in P3 and Q2 as well. Q3 and the race were just where he seemed to struggle. But that is what counts. I think that he just seems to be finding the car more difficult to drive compared to how it was at the start of the season and it probably suits Hamilton much more than him. I expect that he’ll get over this at some point and get closer to Hamilton. I’ll guess that in at leased one of the remaining races that he’ll do a bit better than Hamilton. But weather the team will let him do this, I don’t know. I think Mexico is a good track for Bottas. He seemed strong there like he has been in Russia. I’m not saying Hamilton won’t be better, I just think this is Bottas’s best chance to do better this year.

  4. Mercedes have the most wins, pole positions and fastest laps out of all the teams in 2017. They are miles ahead in the constructors championship. If Rosberg has stayed on for this season, Mercedes would probably be even further ahead in the standings. The statistics really don’t support the idea of Ferrari having the fastest car this season.

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