Hamilton outpaces Massa in Japan

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The Independent Online

World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was pleased with his performance during today's free practice as the McLaren driver prepares for this weekend's crucial Japanese Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old was fastest in the first session as he clocked a time of one minute 18.910 seconds but finished third in the afternoon.

Toyota's Timo Glock was the surprise leader in the second session, topping the timesheet with a time of 1:18.383secs to edge Renault's Fernando Alonso by 0.043secs.

However, Hamilton was happy with the day's workout on the Fuji Speedway circuit as he looks to increase his seven-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa in the drivers' standings.

"I feel very happy with the way the day went," he said. "The car is very competitive here and that is always a good sign that we can compete for a win this weekend.

"Fuji is a place I really enjoy. It is not the easiest of tracks because it requires a good set-up to get the best from the car but I had no complaints today.

In the first session Hamilton moved top of the pack shortly before the hour mark when he recorded a time of 1:19.062.

He then improved to 1:18.910 which remained the benchmark for the remainder of morning.

Hamilton finished 0.153secs faster than Massa and the Stevenage-born driver is confident of producing good pace this weekend.

"We were immediately on the pace and found very good balance straight away.

"In the afternoon I did a promising longer run with no major problems and I feel confident about our pace for the weekend."

Massa, meanwhile, once again finished one place behind Hamilton in the afternoon, recording a time of 1:18.491 for fourth fastest in the session.

And though the Brazilian believes he could have gone quicker, he was happy with his overall performance.

"I am pleased with the first day in Japan," said Massa. "The balance of the car is very good both on the first timed lap and over a distance.

"The times are very close and maybe I could have gone a bit further up the order in the afternoon session if I had not encountered traffic on my last run on the soft tyres.

"I really want to do well this weekend and we will try to win and bring home the best result possible for the two championships."

Red Bull's David Coulthard improved from 19th in the first session to 17th in the second and the Scot admitted he found the circuit a challenge.

"I had a low grip through the last sector, which meant the car had a lot of oversteer and was sliding," he said.

"These cars don't generate high levels of slip angle and go fast so it means you lose some lap time but that is the challenge of this circuit."

Jenson Button, meanwhile, believes there is still work to do after the Honda driver finished 17th and 20th in P1 and P2 respectively.

"I just had very little grip and I felt like the tyres were graining immediately," he said.

"We will have a look at the reasons for this ahead of qualifying tomorrow."