Sebastian Vettel has called on his Ferrari team to take an “reasonable” attacking approach after trailing Formula 1 title rivals Mercedes by a huge margin during Japanese Grand Prix practice.

Ferrari ended up nearly a full second shy of chief rivals Mercedes throughout Friday practice in Suzuka as the German manufacturer made a commanding start to the weekend, with Hamilton leading a 1-2 finish on both occasions.

Vettel improved on his fifth-best time from FP1 to move up to third in the standings in the afternoon, though he could only get within 0.833s of Hamilton’s headline pace as Mercedes continued to dominate proceedings.

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The German is 50 points adrift of Hamilton with five races to go and is desperate need of a response at a venue he has claimed four previous victories at, though he insisted Ferrari must be calculated in its approach to close the gap to Mercedes.

“I think you can always do something, the question is whether it works. Obviously you don’t want to commit suicide,” Vettel said.

“If we attack, we still try to be reasonable. I think it’s a long race. Today I think, both of us, sliding a bit too much therefore damaging the tyres a bit more than others but I think overall it’s been OK.

“It’s been a clean Friday, no interruptions, no issues with the car or anything,” he added. “I think we could focus on our work and now we try to try squeeze out everything that’s left in the car for tomorrow.”

When asked if he felt the 0.8s gap to Hamilton was closable, Vettel replied: "Time will tell, I don’t know. We couldn’t do that today but it doesn’t matter what they do, we look at ourselves and try to get the best from our package.

"We know what the car can do and we need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position. If we can grasp pole tomorrow, that’s great, but if not we need to be there just right behind and see what happens."

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was marginally ahead of Vettel in the opening session but dropped to fifth in FP2 as he also fell behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, ending up 1.2s off the pace.

The Finn conceded Ferrari has work to do to improve heading into Saturday if it is going to challenge Mercedes in qualifying.

“It was a normal Friday, just trying to find a better set-up all the time. I think in the end it was, for sure, better but for sure there’s still work to be done,” he explained.

“For sure there are things to improve, as there are always. It wasn’t an easy Friday but that’s how it is sometimes.

“We are going to do our best and our fastest way from start to finish and see where we are.”

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