Ferrari to make changes after engine failures

Vettel's disappointment was mirrored in the faces of the Ferrari team in the garage

Hamilton said in the wake of the Sepang race he had a clear idea of the set-up direction Mercedes needed to take in Japan, but he added on Thursday he was still struggling to predict what he could expect from his W08 prior to most weekends.

"Absolutely, absolutely. I think we need even more than that".

The Japanese Grand Prix so often makes or breaks championship campaigns with its position at the tail end of the calendar, and this season's race looks no different.

"These next races are going to be crucial in terms of ironing out some of the creases we have with the vehicle".

The third practice session begins at 4am on Saturday 7 October.

Ferrari had the fastest vehicle in the last 2 races and yet scored just 12 points compared to championship leader Mercedes' tally of 68 in that frame to trail by 118 with 5 races to go.

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But both he and Vettel are all too aware that if the Red Bull drivers can wield their motorised Kendo sticks hard enough this weekend they could take away valuable points from them in their battle.

Despite not winning, Lewis Hamilton extended his championship to 34 points ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton meanwhile did not have such reliability problems but could not catch race-winner Max Verstappen's Red Bull and was nearly troubled by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

"To beat Mercedes fair and square was beyond our expectation", Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

"How we achieve it doesn't matter, as long as we achieve it", said a defiant Vettel, who has won four races this year to Hamilton's seven.

In theory, Vettel had faster tyres than Ricciardo, and it showed, reducing the time between him and the Australian by more than one second per lap in certain instances.

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Raikkonen qualified within half a tenth of pole position and then didn't make the start because of engine issues, and that's another massive disappointment for the team. So I definitely want to turn it around quickly. "There was nothing I could do".

"There are some issues with the vehicle that we don't fully understand", Hamilton said.

But while Ricciardo on the other side of the Red Bull garage has picked up eight top-three finishes this season - including third in the Malaysian Grand Prix - Verstappen has tasted champagne just twice.

"So far we've had a pretty good record for this year regarding reliability". "That was partly really good work from the engineers, but also fortunate".

"We are behind, so all will depend on what Mercedes is doing".

Meanwhile, Honda officials will be bracing themselves for more potential road rage from McLaren's Fernando Alonso, whose previous blue-tinged radio outbursts at Suzuka have left the engine suppliers squirming at their home race.

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The four-times champion had gone into the Malaysian weekend 28 points behind his rival.

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