SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest time in the first practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, placing ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel was .211 seconds faster than Mercedes driver Hamilton in light rain at the Suzuka circuit. Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest in the session, narrowly ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
A red flag came out after Carlos Sainz crashed about 50 minutes into the session when he ran wide and accelerated out of the hairpin. He was unhurt but there was significant damage to his Toro Rosso car.
When the session resumed with 23 minutes left, Vettel came out on super-soft tires and set the fastest lap of 1 minute, 29.166 seconds.
With five races remaining, Hamilton leads Vettel by 34 points in the driver championship.
Valtteri Bottas and Malaysia GP winner Max Verstappen were fifth and sixth, respectively. •
By JIM ARMSTRONG