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Friday, October 11, 2013
Sebastian Vettel fastest in practice

Associated Press

SUZUKA, Japan -- Sebastian Vettel had the fastest time in the second practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, indicating the German is in good position to clinch his fourth Formula One championship this weekend.

Vettel was 0.168 seconds faster than Red Bull teammate Mark Webber around the Suzuka circuit. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was two-tenths of a second off Vettel's time.

"The car balance is decent, but I think we can still improve," Vettel said. "Looking after the tires will be important here, especially during the race. The car works fine at the moment, but we need to make sure we set it up the right way."

Vettel has won three of the past four races in Japan and can clinch his fourth successive world title on Sunday. He needs to win and have nearest rival Fernando Alonso finishes worse than eighth.

Vettel would join Michael Schumacher and Juan-Manuel Fangio as the only drivers to win four championshi0ps in a row.

Webber, who will leave F1 after the season, is hoping for better luck at Suzuka after his car burst into flames at the Korean GP last Sunday.

"We've done a lot of laps today and will now work on tomorrow," Webber said. "The track is a special one and in terms of difficulty, it's right up there. We have to be very accurate, and if you're not, then you get penalized."

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest, followed by teammate Romain Grosjean.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest in the morning session, was sixth ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari's Felipe Massa was eighth and McLaren driver Jenson Button, who won the Japanese GP in 2011, was ninth.

There were numerous incidents in Friday afternoon's session.

Alonso lost control of his Ferrari at the Degner curve and finished 10th. McLaren driver Sergio Perez spun off the track and slammed into a tire wall sideways, but he was heard over the team radio saying he was fine. He finished 16th.

Williams driver Pastor Maldonado also hit the tires just 12 minutes into the session.

Jules Bianchi sat out the afternoon practice after running off the track early in the first practice and colliding head-on into a tire wall. The Marussia driver was unhurt but was unable to take part in the afternoon session as his chassis was not repaired in time.