Valtteri Bottas took his Mercedes-AMG Motorsport to the top the timing pages of Free Practice 2 at the Suzuka International Racing Course by a tenth clear of team-mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in second.
It was announced after Free Practice 1 that if the rescheduled qualifying session on Sunday morning was not to go ahead, then the times from the second practice session would determine the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Bottas was quick on the medium tyres in the first ten minutes, going fastest on a 1:29.429. Hamilton nearly three tenths behind the Finn on the same compound.
As the times continued to improve throughout the session, Sebastian Vettel was on the pace on the soft tyres. The German clocked a lap time of a 1:28.392, with Max Verstappen only 0.065 seconds adrift.
Whilst preparing for their qualifying runs on the soft compounds, Bottas spun coming through the last corner before the pit-straight. The Mercedes pilot’s cause of the yellow flag prevented Hamilton from starting his flying lap and having to do another slow lap instead.
After the first thirty minutes of the afternoon session, the top ten were Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Daniil Kvyat, Charles Leclerc, Hamilton, Alexander Albon, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz Jr.
On the soft compound, Albon leapt up to third on a 1:28.668, two tenths behind his team-mate Verstappen. Hamilton on his softs also improved to go quickest with a 1:27.896, half a second clear of Vettel.
That was before Bottas completed his flying lap on the grippiest tyre choice available to move up to second, less than a couple of hundredths in front of Vettel, who was pushed down to third.
The Mercedes duo continued to improve but it was Bottas who had the upper hand over the reigning world champion. The race winner of Australia and Azerbaijan jumped ahead by a tenth of a second on a 1:27.885, a time that would not be bettered by anyone for the rest of the session.
For the remaining thirty minutes, race simulations were being completed and with only Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel improving their lap times in the final couple of minutes, Friday belonged to Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas.
Should qualifying not go ahead on Sunday morning at 02:00 (UK time), the Finn would be on pole for the fifth time this season and Hamilton in second.
The race will begin at 06:10 as planned on the same day.
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