Wake-up call for Vettel as Button makes point

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Both world championship title contenders made their mark in yesterday's practice sessions for the Japanese GP here. McLaren's Jenson Button, the only driver with even an arithmetical chance of stopping Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel from retaining his crown, was fastest in both sessions while the German – third in both – got a wake-up call in the morning session when he ran wide on the exit to the Degner One corner, bounced down the grass and nosed gently into the tyre wall on the outside of Degner Two. His pride was more damaged than his car, in a warning against complacency.

"I had a good reminder not to start thinking about something else," Vettel — who needs just one point from tomorrow's race to clinch the title – said. "It was not really a big mistake. It was maybe I was not 100 per cent awake, and mistakes round here can be costly."

Button, for his part, urged McLaren to fine-tune overnight after his morning advantage of almost half a second over the German was significantly eroded in the afternoon. "We need to improve a lot more to feel confident that we can really challenge the Red Bulls," he said. "It's always fun driving around Suzuka, particularly when you have a good car. This is an amazing circuit – the first sector is phenomenal. I don't think you breathe through that whole sector. It's all about getting it together and finding a balance that lets you flow through there."

His team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who usually shines round here, was second fastest in the morning but never got properly going in the afternoon before a deterioration in track conditions removed any chance of further improvement.