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Sebastian Vettel leads crash-interrupted first Japanese GP practice

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Japanese GP practice 2017

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel set the pace in first Japanese Grand Prix practice, edging out Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton in a session interrupted by Carlos Sainz Jr crashing heavily.

Vettel's best time of 1m29.166s was set shortly after a red-flag period that was caused when Toro Rosso driver Sainz suffered a violent crash around 50 minutes into the session.

Sainz, who is already set to start from the back of the grid at Suzuka due to engine component change penalties, suddenly lost control as he ran wide exiting the hairpin, and speared towards the tyre barriers, blocking the track.

Carlos Sainz Jr crash Japanese GP practice 2017

When the session resumed with 23 minutes left on the clock, Ferrari sent both its drivers out on super-soft tyres, with Vettel - who had been 0.042 seconds behind super-soft-shod Hamilton in second when still on softs - eclipsing the Mercedes' previous benchmark by 0.211s to move to the top of the times.

The arrival of heavier rain in the final 10 minutes ensured Vettel's time would go unchallenged in the closing stages.

Hamilton, using the new Mercedes aero parts he eschewed last weekend in Malaysia, set the pace for much of the session, trading fastest times with team-mate Valtteri Bottas during the opening 20 minutes on soft tyres.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo became the first driver to dip beneath the 1m30s barrier just shy of half an hour into the session, using super-softs to set a 1m29.541s and eclipse Hamilton by 0.501s.

That benchmark stood for a little under 10 minutes, as Hamilton - now on super-softs - improved to a 1m29.377s to retake top spot.

That time held up for second after Vettel's late improvement.

Ricciardo ended the session third-fastest, 0.375s shy of Vettel and a tenth up on the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who was 0.472s slower than his team-mate on super-softs.

Bottas was fifth, 0.985s off the pace, six tenths ahead of Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull.

Both drivers suffered lurid off-track moments during the session, Bottas approaching Turn 1 and then at Degner; Verstappen at Spoon.

Esteban Ocon was the best of the Force Indias in seventh, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg's Renault, Romain Grosjean's Haas and Stoffel Vandoorne's McLaren.

Fernando Alonso was 12th-fastest, 0.033s down on Vandoorne, the two McLarens split by Kevin Magnussen - recovering from a water pressure problem that kept him in the garage for much of the first part of the session.

Sainz ended up 17th after his crash, one place ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly, whose Toro Rosso was sent out equipped with a halo at the start of the session.

FP1 times

PosDriverCarTimeGapLaps
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1m29.166s-23
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m29.377s0.211s29
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1m29.541s0.375s27
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m29.638s0.472s22
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1m30.151s0.985s30
6Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault1m30.762s1.596s26
7Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes1m30.899s1.733s22
8Nico HulkenbergRenault1m30.974s1.808s24
9Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1m31.032s1.866s22
10Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Honda1m31.202s2.036s24
11Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m31.216s2.050s15
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda1m31.235s2.069s19
13Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1m31.530s2.364s23
14Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes1m31.602s2.436s22
15Jolyon PalmerRenault1m31.757s2.591s22
16Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1m31.912s2.746s20
17Carlos Sainz Jr.Toro Rosso/Renault1m32.252s3.086s14
18Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Renault1m32.501s3.335s18
19Pascal WehrleinSauber/Ferrari1m32.897s3.731s29
20Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari1m33.397s4.231s28


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