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Bottas fastest in practice for Japanese GP

by Ace Damon
Valtteri Bottas

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Jim Armstrong, Associated Press

Published October 11, 2019 at 1:37.

Last updated Friday, October 11, 2019 4:57

SUZUKA, Japan – Valtteri Bottas led the second and final practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, putting team-mate Lewis Hamilton on what could be the starting point for Sunday's Formula One race.

Organizers canceled Saturday's usual qualifying session with Typhoon Hagibis, who is due to arrive on Japan's main island on Saturday and Sunday. The plans foresee that the race will be held as scheduled on Sunday at 14h, with qualification held earlier in the day.

"The FIA ​​and Formula 1 support this decision in the interests of the safety of spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka circuit," organizers said in a statement.

If the Sunday qualifying session is canceled, the second practice session will become crucial. Race organizers can use the second practice classification for Sunday grid positions.

Rain was forecast on Friday at the 5,807-kilometer Suzuka circuit, but both training sessions were held in dry conditions.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel led early, but Bottas survived a slow spin early in the session and set the time at 1 minute, 27,785 seconds, 0.100 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

"We tried to do everything we could today in the session and prioritize," said Bottas. "We have tried to be efficient over time and I think we have done the job. There is a lot of work to be done to analyze everything before qualifying for Sunday morning if it happens."

Red Bull rider Max Verstappen was third, followed by Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Vettel. Red Bull rider Alexander Albon was sixth.

"I am not concerned about qualifying and the race on Sunday as it will not affect my approach," Verstappen said. "We can't change the weather and it's out of control, so now we need to see what happens on Sunday."

McLaren rider Carlos Sainz was seventh, followed by Racing Point rider Sergio Perez. Toro Rosso rival Pierre Gasly, who returned to his seat after Naoki Yamamoto's debut earlier in the session, was ninth. McLaren rider Lando Norris was in the top 10.

Hamilton has a 73-point lead over Bottas, with five races remaining this season.

The Mercedes driver has won in Japan in four of the last five races. If Hamilton wins this weekend, he will match Michael Schumacher's record for the most Japanese GP wins with six.

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