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Hamilton aiming to build championship lead at Japanese GP

08 October 2017

There were already positives for him going into the weekend, with Ferrari saying his gearbox was undamaged in a freaky collision with Williams rookie Lance Stroll on the cool down lap after the Malaysian race.

Scott McLaughlin's done it twice at Mount Panorama ahead of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

As things progressed during the 16-minute opening session, Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel were at the front.

Mercedes left Ferrari in their wake at Suzuka as a dominant Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix. "Being on a cooler circuit here the vehicle will be in a much better position", said Hamilton speaking to reporters at the Suzuka circuit on Thursday.

But he's won here twice before and can complete the hat-trick if the Mercs are again on song in race trim. He found another half a second compared to his Q2 lap and opened his account with a time of 1:27.345s, six tenths faster than Bottas.

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After both cars got their laps done, and a feel for high and low fuel, he said the team were "reasonably pleased with the initial balance and performance".

"For sure the team did a great job, obviously pay price for mistakes, made mistakes today, had to change the gearbox, was far from ideal to prepare for qualifying especially after yesterday's little running, this is what we got". "It's insane the speeds, the way you are able to throw the vehicle around, like the craziest rollercoaster ride".

"It has taken me forever to get this pole", he said.

Due to a grid penalty of five places, Bottas will start in the seventh place, while Vettel moves to the second.

The German believes Ferrari now need to be at their best to overhaul Hamilton after his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was also plagued by issues in Malaysia - qualifying second before a battery issue prevented him from starting.

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Max Verstappen, victor last week in Malaysia, was fourth-quickest ahead of Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo. So, come rain or shine, I think this will be fun, this weekend.

But they weren't alone, as Mercedes' Bottas also had to switch out his gearbox, earning him a five-place grid penalty.

"I think our auto is generally very strong in qualifying trim and then generally when we get to the race we are maybe a step back", he stated.

"The Red Bulls just seem to be rapid in the race trim".

There could have been a different leader of 2017 drivers championship if the Dutch driver had allowed Vettel to overtake the British In Singapore. As a result, Vettel will start alongside Hamilton on the front row.

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After a tough few weeks, Vettel says Ferrari are confident of a good race in Japan. "I've got eight metres, I've got to try and keep those eight metres that I have and yeah, starts have generally been strong this year, so I'll just try to keep with that".

Hamilton aiming to build championship lead at Japanese GP