Hamilton encouraged by Friday pace
Lewis Hamilton is hoping he has discovered the foundation on which to build and bring an end to Sebastian Vettel's winning streak.
For the first time this season Hamilton finished top of the timesheet at the end of the two 90-minute Friday practice sessions ahead of the Korean Grand Prix on Sunday.
For once, and after a run of five successive grand prix Fridays out in front, Vettel found himself relegated to the rare position of being only second best.
The reigning three-times world champion noted after the session his need for improvements which he felt would arrive "once the traction control is switched on".
That was a cheeky joke to the references made recently that his Red Bull was somehow being assisted by some form of mechanical aid given his crushing dominance during the race in Singapore last month as he won his third consecutive race.
In front of empty grandstands around the Korea International Circuit, Hamilton clocked a lap of one minute 38.673secs, finishing 0.108secs ahead of Vettel who has won the last three races.
Trailing the 26-year-old German by 91 points and with his title hopes all but over, Hamilton has made it his mission to win his second race for Mercedes after triumphing in Hungary in July.
The platform is now there as he said: "That was a great day, and I'm really happy with the way the sessions went, the processes.
"This is the first time this season I've really felt P2 (second practice) has gone well, so hopefully that's a good sign and it continues this weekend.
"There are still improvements we can make set-up wise, some tweaks to make, but otherwise we're okay and we look like we are competitive.
"I definitely feel I have a better foundation this weekend, and I love this track, I really enjoy it, and it should provide for a good race."
Hamilton and Vettel's team-mates in Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, who faces a 10-place grid penalty for collecting a third reprimand after the race in Singapore, were third and fourth quickest.
As for Vettel's main championship rival in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who is 60 points adrift, the Spaniard was seventh fastest.
Vettel, who has admitted "it will be close with Mercedes", was one of those to bemoan the lack of fans.
The race faces an uncertain future as the organisers are hoping to re-negotiate their current deal with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Looking at the thousands of empty seats which ensures they run at a significant loss each year, they must be wondering 'Why bother?'
Sited a three-and-a-half-hour train journey from the capital Seoul in a port town similar in size to Felixstowe, trying to attract fans has always been an issue.
Despite hopes that building the circuit would regenerate the area, those plans have fallen flat and now there is the prospect of the track becoming a white elephant should they fail to confirm their place on next year's calendar.
As Vettel noted: "I like the track here, it's just a shame it's so far from Seoul, which is a great city."
Jenson Button, ninth on the timesheet in his McLaren, believes such a venue that at least serves the needs of the teams and drivers in the paddock and on track respectively, deserves better.
"It's always sad when there are no fans at a race because they make for the atmosphere," said Button.
"When we are driving, racing, it doesn't matter to us, but for the whole atmosphere of the weekend it's great to have fans, they make the event. The sport wouldn't exist if it wasn't for them.
"It's sad there aren't many fans here, but next weekend (in Japan) there will be. It's going to be a full house (at Suzuka), so that's quite exciting."
Force India's Paul Di Resta, who sat out the first session as reserve James Calado was given a run out, was 11th, one thousandth of a second behind team-mate Adrian Sutil, and 1.334secs behind Hamilton.
Briton's Max Chilton brought up the rear, finishing just under five seconds off the pace in his Marussia.
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