Japan Grand Prix: Hamilton dominates free practice sessions

Hamilton had been strong all weekend topping all three practice sessions before taking pole and in the race he exploited his advantage to maximum effect. I don't regret the move, obviously with that outcome you would do it differently because with hindsight it's always easy.

"He ran wide and he went off the track and I just went on the outside at the next corner, leaving him space on the inside", Raikkonen said.

"The team have done an wonderful job this weekend, and the call that we made for Q3 was probably the most hard", said the Briton, joined by Bottas on the front row after the Finn completed a second successive Mercedes front row lockout.

"Austin is usually a good track for us, so I can't wait to unleash this beast there".

It's a very mixed-up starting grid, but the sight of Romain Grosjean's Haas leading the third row is an intriguing one.

He was then fourth after Verstappen ran off the road at the chicane, and in rejoining the track, bumped Raikkonen on to the grass. Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for the indiscretion.

Magnussen takes no prisoners: Kevin Magnussen's reputation for hard racing is growing by the race and his move on Charles Leclerc was the flawless example of why.

Magnussen came out worse, picking up a rear-left puncture that dropped him to last as he limped back to the pits, and the debris he scattered across the track in the process forced race control to deploy the safety vehicle.

In contrast, Hamilton got it right from the start. While the Englishman posted the pole lap, Vettel had to dash back to the pits for a change of tyres. The stewards investigated the incident, but tellingly took no action.

Ricciardo was now the man on the move, having moved from 15th to 10th before the safety auto.

That also allowed the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who had started 15th after a problem in qualifying, to jump Raikkonen having carved through the order in a stellar opening stint. Hamilton was supreme, driving superbly and overshadowing Bottas in what has become in recent races a dominant vehicle. Hamilton complained intermittently of hesitations from his power unit from the lead, but he had no discernable difficulty keeping a five-second gap to his teammate in second place.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were fighting for the rearmost places in the field, but their enthusiasm got the better of them.

Sergio Perez stole best-of-the-rest honours in seventh after Racing Point Force India mugged Haas and Toro Rosso with a superior strategy.

The fresh-tyre advantage allowed them to jump Gasly, before Perez caught and passed Grosjean after a virtual safety auto called to deal with Charles Leclerc's stricken Sauber.

The four-time world champion was in a class of his own to lead Mercedes one-twos in both sessions as Ferrari and Red Bull failed to match his pace.

  • Rosalie Stanley