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Russell leads Mercedes one-two in Japan practice

Max Verstappen will become F1 world champion for the second time if he wins Sunday’s race and takes the point for fastest lap

George Russell headed Lewis Hamilton to a Mercedes one-two on a wet Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Russell was 0.235 seconds quicker than Hamilton, with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez third and fourth, 0.8secs off the pace.

Kevin Magnussen’s Haas was fifth, from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

The wet conditions meant the day lacked any lessons with regard to the competitive picture of the weekend.

Dry conditions are expected over the weekend.

It was the first time F1 cars have been in Japan since 2019, after the race was left off the calendar for the last two years because of the pandemic.

The Mercedes drivers took a new set of intermediate tyres to set their times, while Verstappen and Perez did not.

And Charles Leclerc, the fastest man over one lap on balance this season, was down in 11th place after a troubled session complaining of problems with his left front wheel.

Verstappen will clinch his second world title at Suzuka on Sunday if he wins the race with fastest lap, regardless of the results of Leclerc and Perez, the only two other drivers still in with a mathematical chance of the championship.

He can still do so in other circumstances, but then it would depend on the results of Leclerc and Perez, who are 104 and 106 points behind him with a maximum of 138 still available.

There were no major incidents in the second session, after the first ended with Mick Schumacher’s Haas in the wall after the German lost control after the chequered flag on his return to the pits following a practice start.

Schumacher was unable to take part in the second session after Haas decided to change his chassis as a precaution following the incident.

The first session was also wet, and Alonso set the pace from the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc.

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