Mercedes boss Toto Wolff feels the considerable gap to Formula 1 rivals Ferrari during Japanese Grand Prix practice “flatters” his team and expects the advantage to shrink come qualifying.

The reigning world champions dominated Friday practice at Suzuka as championship leader Lewis Hamilton headed a Mercedes 1-2 from teammate Valtteri Bottas in both sessions, finishing nearly a full second clear of Ferrari.

But Wolff suspects Ferrari was running in conservative engine modes throughout FP1 and FP2 and suggested its apparent pace advantage over the Scuderia is not as great as it appears on the timesheets.

“They are turned down [the engines] a bit,” Wolff told Sky Sports following the conclusion of second practice.

“We are actually losing a bit through the Esses, the fast corners. I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we’ll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow.”

Wolff is predicting a much closer order during qualifying once Ferrari shows its true hand and insists the battle for supremacy remains “neck and neck” between the two teams.

“In the morning they were quicker through almost every corner but they had a softer tyre,” he explained.

“When we have both the softer tyre, we are gaining a little bit in a straight line and that makes me really doubt whether they’ve shown the whole performance.

“Through the Esses they are a bit quicker and the rest is us, so it’s neck and neck even though the lap time seems to show a larger gap.”

Despite Hamilton holding a 50-point advantage over Vettel in the drivers’ standings after seeing his lead increase thanks to Mercedes’ controversial use of team orders at last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, Wolff rejected the notion that the title race is as good as over.

“In 2007, Lewis had the equivalent of 45 points advantage with two races to go and lost by one points,” he added. “So we are far from having it in the bag.”



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