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Lewis Hamilton rallied to a dominant result in Friday’s second practice session ahead of the 2018 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix and beat Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by more than eight-tenths of a second. 

Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished second behind Hamilton by 0.461 seconds, but the victor can feel encouraged especially after managing the feat on soft tyres.

After topping first practice and avoiding a close scrape with Pierre Gasly, Hamilton recovered to enjoy his “best day” out on the track, with signs pointing towards a potential fourth pole in his last six races.

Hamilton’s only pole at the Suzuka International Racing Course came last year, but the Briton will hope to tie up the priority place for a second year in succession when he returns to the track on Saturday.

The official Formula 1 Twitter account provided a breakdown of Friday’s practice finishing times: 

Earlier on Friday, Mercedes enjoyed another one-two while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo momentarily managed to break into the top three ahead of the Ferraris in P1:

Ferrari struggled to get out in front of their Mercedes rivals throughout Friday’s practice, and another one-two finish for the latter suggests we could soon see Hamilton improve his 50-point cushion at the top of the driver standings.

It was a shaky start to Friday’s action from Hamilton, though not through any fault of his own, as a slowing Gasly almost forced him into a crash:

It was an unwelcome distraction following three consecutive Formula One wins, to say the least, but Hamilton showed the nous to avoid that close call, dominating first practice before breaking new ground in Practice Two.

In fact, his final fastest time of one minute, 28.217 seconds was the fastest of the weekend so far, and he laughed afterwards, per Sky Sports’ Matt Morlidge: “This track is awesome. I’m having the best day!”

After three wins on the trot and with his peers struggling to keep pace—even on the supersofts that should have them going faster than him—it’s not surprising Hamilton has been in such fine fettle this weekend:

Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, placed fifth in second practice, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ricciardo either side of him, positioned fourth and sixth, respectively.

The latter of those, Ricciardo, came in 1.296 seconds behind Hamilton, but seventh-place finisher Esteban Ocon was more than half a second slower than that and led the secondary rabble of Sunday contenders.

The Japanese Grand Prix has been won by Mercedes for the last four years in succession—with Hamilton accounting for three of those—and it looks as though their hold will be difficult to break come Sunday.

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