Jenson Button fastest in practice

SUZUKA, Japan -- McLaren driver Jenson Button set the fastest time in Friday's practice sessions for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix.

The Briton clocked a time of 1 minute, 31.901 seconds in the afternoon session at the Suzuka circuit to finish 0.174 seconds ahead of Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was third.

Button must win Sunday's race and hope that Vettel finishes out of the points in order to keep the drivers' championship fight alive.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was fourth, followed by Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, Mercedes pair Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, then McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, who has won nine of 14 races this season, holds a 124-point lead over Button with five races to go and is looking to become the sport's youngest two-title winner.

Button also had the fastest time in the morning practice session.

It was a rough afternoon for Williams drivers Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado. Barrichello crashed at the hairpin and Maldonado rolled to a halt. They were 17th and 21st respectively on the time sheets.

Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi lost control of his Sauber and went sideways at the 130R turn before regaining control and eventually finished 17th.

Vettel ran wide at the Degner curve near the end of the morning session and made contact with the barriers. The German climbed unhurt from his car, jogging back to pit lane while his car was lifted away with a damaged front wing.

Qualifying for Sunday's race will be on Saturday.