Championship leader takes over from Rosberg at top of timesheets as Ricciardo, Kobayashi and Gutierrez crash out.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton recorded the fastest time in second practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, taking over from team-mate Nico Rosberg at the top of the timesheets after the German had set the pace in the morning session.
Hamilton's best time, a lap of 1:35.078, came just after the halfway mark of the 90-minute afternoon session at the Suzuka circuit and left him 0.240 seconds clear of Rosberg.
Williams' Valtteri Bottas was third fastest, though the Williams driver was more than a second adrift of Hamilton’s time. Jenson Button was fourth fastest for McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel set the afternoon’s fifth fastest time with a lap 1.3s down on Hamilton’s benchmark. He was followed the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrnando Alonso and then by the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen and the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
Tenth place in the session went to Daniel Ricciardo, though the Red Bull Racing brought out the red flags when he crashed as he prepared to start a quick lap.
"I made a mistake," Ricciardo said of the crash that ripped the left-front tyre off his RB10. "I did my first quick lap and everyone is cooling after that, producing fast lap, slow lap and then fast again. On the slow lap there was a yellow flag, so I went extra slow, so that once I started my quick lap the yellow flag would have cleared and I would have been able to push. The tyres probably cooled too much – out of the last chicane I got on the power, had a few moments and just couldn't catch it."
His wasn’t the only crash of the afternoon. Local favourite Kamui Kobayashi was the first out, the Caterham driver losing control of his CT05 out of the Esses after just four laps. He spun backwards into the barriers, causing damage to the rear suspension and front wing.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez was the next to get caught out. The Mexican switched to the medium tyres but lost control and went into the barriers on the outside of the Spoon Curve.
Finally, the red flag again appeared with three minutes left in the session when Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso was forced to stop his car at the exit of Spoon Curve. It was his second problem during the session after an early fuel pump issue. Vergne had sat out the morning session in favour of Max Verstappen but the Dutch teenager suffered an engine failure later in the session, leading to a rapid swap to ready the car for Vergne in the afternoon.
With the Frenchman’s car stranded on the track, race officials elected to end the session one minute early.
FIA Formula One