Japanese Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel edges inexorably nearer title

 

Suzuka

On a day when the imminence of Sebastian Vettel’s fourth consecutive World Championship paled into insignificance in the face of Maria de Villota’s human story, the German once again took control of events on the racetrack.

Upstaged again by Lewis Hamilton in the first practice session for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel moved ahead in the second and led his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber by a small margin.

“The balance is decent, but I think we can still improve,” Vettel suggested. “Looking after the tyres will be important here, especially during the race. The car works fine at the moment, but we need to make sure we set it up the right way. We need to step up our game as Mercedes will be strong in qualifying.”

Hamilton, who loves driving on the fast and flowing Suzuka track, said his Mercedes felt strong as Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado, Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi all went off the road. “I’m happy with where our car is after the first practice sessions today, although, of course, we would love to be more competitive. We’ve got some work to do this evening on the tyre management in particular. It’s too early to think about what we can achieve but I’m looking forward to a competitive qualifying tomorrow,” Hamilton said.

There was encouragement for Jenson Button too as he split the Ferraris in ninth place in his McLaren. “Throughout the day we saw a lot of drivers making mistakes, but that’s the nature of this place,” Button said. “It’s unforgiving and you appreciate that you have to respect this place. We found a good balance on the hard tyre, but still need to do some work with the medium because we didn’t gain too much going from the harder tyre to the softer one.”

Fernando Alonso told Ferrari to raise their game if he is to have any chance of denying Vettel his title. After practice the Spaniard, who is 77 points adrift, was down in 10th place. “We definitely need to improve because we were not at a good level,” he said. Alonso did not help his own cause, as he was one of those who suffered on the unforgiving track with its many gravel traps. He was fortunate to avoid one as he spun on the approach to the second Degner curve that caught out several of the other drivers.

“We didn’t extract the maximum, but I also made a mistake with a spin,” Alonso added. “Things were not good enough. Luckily, when I spun I didn’t ruin the tyres. We also managed to use them on the long run with a full fuel load, even if we definitely lost a few extra tenths from the first lap. We must now put together a series of changes we have in mind and do a good lap in Q3 because it’s important to start from the front.”

Williams were fined £51,000 yesterday after a wheel came off Maldonado’s car during a practice session. Stewards said the incident, in which the rear left wheel bounced across the track, was regarded as a serious safety issue.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?