Japanese Grand Prix 2014: Lewis Hamilton finds himself in familiar territory as he tops Friday practice

Rosberg pipped Hamilton in the morning session but the championship leader won the battle of the two Mercedes to finish fastest in second practice

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton hit back in his title battle with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as he set the fastest time in second practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg had the better of Friday's morning session by beating Hamilton into second place, but the Brit returned the favour during the afternoon running - which saw both Kamui Kobayashi and Daniel Ricciardo crash out early on.

Typhoon Phanfone has been seen as a threat to the race but the majority of Friday was unaffected, with light rain only coming in the closing stages of free practice two.

By then Hamilton had set a best time of one minute 35.078 to go 0.240 seconds quicker than Rosberg - with Mercedes topping the timesheet for the 100th time in their dominant 2014 season.

 

Heading in to the weekend, Hamilton leads the drivers' championship by just three points over his German colleague and he did well to correct a skid that could have seen him hit the wall, a fate that had already befell Kobayashi and Ricciardo, before posting his best effort.

Kobayashi had sat out of the morning session at his home grand prix and left his fans disappointed as he crashed his Caterham just three laps into his run.

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The Red Bull of Ricciardo followed suit having just set the fastest time and a red flag followed as the recovery truck was busy rescuing Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso - which had pulled up with engine problems.

Nico_Rosberg.jpg
Nico Rosberg topped first practice timesheets

Valtteri Bottas was the closest challenger to the Mercedes duo but the Williams driver, whose team-mate Felipe Massa could only manage 14th, was nearly a full second short of Rosberg with the McLaren of Jenson Button fourth fastest.

Sebastian Vettel took fifth for Red Bull - with Ricciardo's earlier run still good enough for 10th - whilst the Ferrari's of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were sixth and seventh respectively.

The Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat was ninth as team-mate Verge, who had sat out the morning session for 17-year-old Max Verstappen, reached 11th despite again suffering engine trouble and bringing out a second red flag that saw the end of any meaningful running with the car needing to be recovered from the track for a second time.

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Sergio Perez's run was delayed due to a problem on his Force India restricting him to only running the final 30 minutes - leading to the 15th fastest time as the sister car of Nico Hulkenberg reached 12th.

The Lotus of Pastor Maldonado will face a 10-place grid penalty for taking on a sixth engine of the season and he looks set to drop to the back having only managed the 16th fastest time - with team-mate Romain Grosjean 13th.

Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez kept their Saubers out of the bottom four, which was again occupied by both Caterham and Marussia.

Daniel_Ricciardo.jpgMarcus Ericsson impressed in the morning for Caterham and was the quickest of the quartet once again, with Jules Bianchi beating Marussia colleague Max Chilton and fan favourite Kobayashi bringing up the rear.

Second Practice:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:35.078

2 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:35.318

3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:36.279

4 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:36.409

5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:36.436

6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.529

7 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:36.637

8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) McLaren 1:36.714

9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 1:36.943

10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:37.186

11 Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso 1:37.219

12 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:37.504

13 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus 1:37.563

14 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:37.700

15 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:37.786

16 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Lotus 1:37.798

17 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Sauber 1:38.010

18 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber 1:38.365

19 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Caterham 1:39.069

20 Jules Bianchi (Fra) Marussia 1:39.306

21 Max Chilton (Gbr) Marussia 1:39.333

22 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Caterham 1:42.760.

PA

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