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Bottas fastest in practice despite crash

Valtteri Bottas crashes during final practice of the Japanese grand prix

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fastest in final practice at the Japanese Grand Prix despite missing half the session after a crash.

The Finn and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was just 0.014 seconds behind, both set their fastest times on the ‘soft’ tyre, not the fastest ‘super-soft’.

Despite that, they were 0.3secs quicker than Sebastian Vettel could manage on the ‘super-soft’.

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were a further 0.6secs off.

Hamilton had been on a faster lap midway through the session only for the red flag to come out while he was in the final sector when Bottas crashed at the Spoon Curve.

Bottas ran wide over the kerb on the exit of the final part of the double left-hander and his car was dragged out towards the wall, breaking the front wing and damaging the right rear wheel. He missed the rest of the session.

No sooner had the session re-started after a 10-minute break for repairs to the track than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen crashed at Degner Two, a flick of oversteer dragging him quickly off track and into the gravel trap and then tyre wall.

Vettel had narrowly avoided a similar incident earlier in the session, rescuing his own error in Degner Two with a trip over the kerb.

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Raikkonen’s crash led to another red flag and 10-minute delay, after which Hamilton did not bother to try for another hot lap, preferring to concentrate on used tyres and a front wing comparison.

As a result, it was an inconclusive session, but the suggestion is that Mercedes have an advantage going into qualifying.

Bottas cannot start from pole even if he is able to beat Hamilton for lap time as he has a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change.

He is one of several drivers with penalties – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz will all be at the back as a result of major engine penalties.

Behind the Red Bulls, Force India’s Esteban Ocon was sixth quickest, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Alonso.

The second Force India of Sergio Perez and Hulkenberg’s team-mate Jolyon Palmer completed the top 10.

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BBC Sport – Formula 1

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