Hamilton enjoys 'best day' as Mercedes star dominates practice
Lewis Hamilton said he was having the "best day" after the Formula One champion dominated both practice sessions at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Mercedes led the way in an ominous sign for Ferrari in the race for the title as Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas topped the standings, with the reigning champion fastest in FP1 and FP2 on Friday.
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari need to overturn a 50-point deficit with only five races remaining and Mercedes' early pace at Suzuka suggested the fight for supremacy this season could be about to reach a tipping point.
Hamilton made a sublime start to his campaign in Japan, the Briton recording a time of one minute, 28.217seconds – four-tenths of a second clear of Bottas on another impressive day for Mercedes.
Vettel improved in the second session but the German was still 0.833s behind Hamilton, who revelled in his performance.
"This track is awesome. I'm having the best day," Hamilton said after completing his flying laps.
Hamilton also narrowly avoided a crash with Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly in the first session.
Gasly was reprimanded by officials after driving slowly on the racing line at the chicane, with Hamilton forced onto the escape road to prevent contact.
It has been a dominant period for Hamilton and Mercedes, who have won the past three grands prix to pull clear of rivals Ferrari.
Hamilton reigned supreme in Sochi last week, the four-time world champion claiming the Russian GP after Bottas obeyed team orders.
Reflecting on his form and the improvement of Mercedes, Hamilton said: "I could not have hoped for better. When I look back, there have been some real dream experiences for me – races I dreamed of having and performing at those levels.
"That is what I live for. You don't always get to experience what your target is. I am just grateful for the races I have had and how a lot of then have panned out."