Lewis Hamilton shocked by Mercedes' pace advantage in Japan practice


"I think we expected there was more rain coming and obviously it didn't so then it was the wrong decision".

The Mercedes 1-2 lock-out at the front of the grid is made even sweeter by the knowledge that Hamilton's main rival for the world championship will start from ninth position after Ferrari's tyre miscue at the start of Q3.

"Look, it is so hard out there to make the right call but I think that is another real big difference that we as a team have made this year", Hamilton said immediately after the session.

With rain threatening, Hamilton clocked a lap of 1 minute, 27.760 seconds to lead teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.299.

Mercedes read the weather conditions perfectly, ensuring that both drivers were able to record their best laps early in the third qualifying before the rain increased to secure their fifth consecutive one-two in qualifying at Suzuka. "You saw all of us fumbling and trying to figure out what to do - the team were spot on with it and it gave us an opportunity to grab this pole position".

"Anything can happen tomorrow".

Hamilton leads Vettel by 50 points (306 to 256) in the driver standings, and with just five races to go and a maximum of 125 points left on the table for each driver, the driver championship battle is effectively over. "Obviously it wasn't wet enough to start with and the rain didn't come, it came later". That means the two Mercedes drivers will need a strong start to keep Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen at bay. Race winners get 25 points. "It's not easy when you start further back but it's not impossible", said the unhappy German.

Kevin Durant returned to Seattle wearing a Sonics jersey
It's the first time the National Basketball Association has been back in Seattle since 2008, the last season for the Sonics. Kemp also spent his rookie season and the next seven years of his 14-year career with the SuperSonics.

"I never in a million years thought I would get 80", he admitted. "I'm so proud to be on this journey with them".

Unfortunately, his hopes of improving on his first run - and possibly stealing pole position from Hamilton for the second race in succession - were thwarted when the rain picked up again.

Meanwhile, there were more qualifying woes for Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who climbed out of his auto and yelled an expletive into his helmet after suffering a mechanical breakdown.

New Zealander Brendon Hartley and French team mate Pierre Gasly were sixth and seventh in a dream result for Honda-powered Toro Rosso at the Japanese engine manufacturer's home race.

The Force Indias of Ocon and Sergio Perez qualified above and below Vettel to complete the top 10, before Ocon's penalty dropped him to 11th, behind Charles Leclerc's Sauber.

The Swede ran wide onto the grass through the left-hander then spun into the barrier on his second push lap, leading to a six-minute red flag.