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September 27, 2017

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Motor racing Red Bull leading one-two in final Suzuka practice

SUZUKA, Japan--Double world champion Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull one-two in final practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday.

The German, who won his second title in Japan last year and will be chasing his fourth successive Suzuka pole later in the day, lapped the classic figure-of-eight circuit in a best time of one minute 32.136 seconds.

Australian Mark Webber, who was fastest on Friday, was second on the timesheets with a lap 0.235 slower on a sunny morning at the fairground track overlooked by a giant slow-turning Ferris wheel.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, determined to pull out all the stops to keep his seat for next season, was third fastest ahead of former team mate and multiple Suzuka winner Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes.

Massa was four tenths quicker than team mate and championship leader Fernando Alonso in 11th place. Alonso leads Vettel by 29 points in the standings with six races remaining.

The Saubers of Mexican future McLaren racer Sergio Perez and local hero Kamui Kobayashi, the only Japanese driver who had a sizeable contingent of supporters in the stands, were fifth and sixth.

Lewis Hamilton, whose McLaren team will be chasing their fifth pole in a row, might have gone fastest but he had to brake and swerve to avoid the slowing Marussia of Frenchman Charles Pic at the exit of the high-speed 130R curve.

"We need to let (race director) Charlie (Whiting) know how dangerous that last corner was," the 2008 champion told his team over the radio.

Team mate Jenson Button, last year's winner in Japan, was eighth.

Germany's Nico Hulkenberg gave his Force India mechanics plenty of extra work before qualifying by crashing into the tyre wall just before the crossover at the Degner Two corner.

The incident did not appear to be the driver's fault, with a suspicion that something might have snapped on the car to prevent him steering normally.

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