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Vettel sizzles in wet Suzuka practice

Sebastian Vettel was quickest in free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, with the Ferrari driver's morning effort never coming under threat in a rain-shortened afternoon session that saw only five men complete timed laps.

Vettel set the pace in the first practice session at the Suzuka Circuit with a 1min 29.166sec lap, edging out his Formula One championship rival Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes at the top of the timesheets.

The rain became heavier through the afternoon and was positively lashing the 5.8km circuit by the time the second 90-minute session was scheduled to begin.

As a result, the start was delayed by 45 minutes as drains overflowed and rivers of water coursed down inclines at the undulating track.

Championship leader Hamilton went fastest in that session, setting a time of 1min 48.719sec, whichwas nearly 20 seconds off Vettel's morning best on a dry track.

The Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, and Williams duo Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only other cars to attempt a flying lap.

The 18-year-old rookie Stroll was briefly caught out by the conditions, running wide and skirting the barriers before rejoining the track without causing damage to his car.

The Canadian's excursion elicited a rare smile from Kimi Raikkonen, but neither the Finn nor his teammate Vettel set a time, both completing just a sole installation lap.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen did not set a time in the afternoon session, but had been third and sixth-quickest in the morning session, respectively.

Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes, ended the day fifth with his morning's best as Ocon came seventh.

Bottas' teammate Hamilton leads Vettel by 34 points in the overall standings, with five of the season's 20 races remaining. - REUTERS

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