Vettel and teammate Webber are in good shape after domianting practice ahead of Saturday's qualifying [AFP]

Sebastian Vettel led championship leader Mark Webber in a dominant Red Bull display in both practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix.

While they flaunted an advantage of more than half a second over their title rivals, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton could only watch from the sidelines after crashing on Friday morning.

When the 2008 Formula One champion did get back on track with eight minutes of the second session remaining, the Briton was able to complete just six laps with the 13th fastest time of the afternoon.

The 25-year-old, determined to throw caution aside after three retirements in four races dropped him to third place and 20 points behind Webber, had completed nine laps before running wide at the Degner double right-hander and smacking the tyre wall.

The car came to a halt under the bridge with the front left wheel hanging limply.

Hamilton stepped out, shaking his head but keeping his yellow helmet on to hide his undoubted fury at having to sit out the remaining 45 minutes.

Blown chance

With heavy rain forecast for Saturday, the McLaren title contender knew he had blown his chance of really getting a feel for the new bits his team had brought to the race in an all-out push to catch up with Red Bull.

"I was probably pushing too hard, too early. I don't know," he said of his third crash in three races.

"They say bad things come in threes so hopefully that's the case, it's over and done with."

The Red Bull drivers, teammates and fierce rivals, had no such problems with their cars powering around the flowing figure of eight circuit as if on rails.

Vettel, last year's winner at the Honda-owned circuit and fourth in the title battle, set a best time of one minute 32.585 seconds on a dry track in the morning and then, with the sun high in the sky, bettered it after lunch with a 1:31.465.

"The car was reliable and I had a good feeling," he said.

"The forecast suggests rain but there's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive in the wet."

Australian Webber, who is 11 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with four races left, was 0.048 and 0.395 slower.

Source: Reuters