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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK
Fuji, 28-30 September, 2007
The Chequered Flag podcast

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton takes pole in misty conditions at Fuji Speedway
Hamilton drove brilliantly in difficult conditions to take pole
Britain's Lewis Hamilton pipped title rival Fernando Alonso to pole position for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton left it late in wet and misty conditions at Fuji Speedway to edge past McLaren team-mate Alonso with a lap of one minute 25.368 seconds.

The win boosts Hamilton's championship hopes as he leads Alonso by only two points with three races left.

Kimi Raikkonen's slim chances were hit by his third place, while Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa came in fourth.

Germany's Nick Heidfeld finished fifth, with Britain's Jenson Button impressing in his Honda to earn sixth spot on the grid after Nico Rosberg was demoted 10 places for changing his engine on Friday.

It was the Englishman's best qualifying performance since last year's Japanese Grand Prix, but David Coulthard will start in 12th and Anthony Davidson 19th.


Hamilton was not happy with Alonso's conduct at the first corner of the opening lap at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago when the Spaniard pushed him wide on to the tarmac run-off area.

But both drivers have played down any similar shenanigans at this Sunday's race.

"We're going to race," Hamilton said. "As Fernando said, we're not idiots.

"We're going to go into the first corner, we want to finish the race and score points, so we will obviously attack each other in a fair manner."

Alonso added: "We will both finish the race, no worries.

"Obviously I will do what I can to take the lead but also be sensible as it's not in anybody's interest not to finish the race."

Hamilton claimed his fifth career pole with his late run and said: "It was a good session for us, the whole weekend has started off a little bit better than others.

There's no difference between the teams in the wet or dry, the battle will be very close

McLaren's Fernando Alonso

"It was a good car today in tricky conditions. I'm very, very fortunate the team did a fantastic job in getting it set up right.

"When you're out there you don't really know where you are and they just timed it to perfection."

Hamilton said of his crucial final lap: "It was quite a good lap, I was happy with it. I improved, cleaned up a couple of corners."

Alonso was happy to claim second despite leading for most of the third qualifying session in Japan.

"Everything's going well and we're on the first row, which is quite important for the race," said Alonso.

"There's no difference between the teams in the wet or dry, the battle will be very close. We had the advantage in qualifying but over the race it may be different.

Lewis Hamilton (left) and Fernando Alonso celebrate being first and second
Hamilton (left) and Alonso celebrate being at the front of the grid

"I really enjoyed driving here at Fuji for the first time. I liked those conditions.

"I think for everybody it was quite an exciting qualifying because of the fog this morning."

Raikkonen revealed he had a slight mechanical problem that undermined his chances of grabbing pole.

"I had a small problem with the gearbox, which we can fix, so I had to back off," said Raikkonen.

"I'm confident we will have a good car in the race."

Button said he was hoping for rain to boost his chances of securing points.

"They were pretty tough conditions because the track was drying through the session and it was very greasy. It was tough to know what tyres to use but we did a great job choosing the tyres," he said.

"If it is dry then it is going to be really tough but if it is wet then we have a chance of scoring some good points."

There had been some doubt as to whether the session would go ahead given morning practice had to be abandoned due to fog and drizzle.

But the session got under way on schedule as the fog lifted and the rain eased and there were no delays.

Qualifying results from the Japanese Grand Prix, Saturday.

1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1 min 25.368 secs
2. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1:25.438
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:25.516
4. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:25.765
5. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:26.505
6. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1:26.913
7. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:26.914
8. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:26.973
9. Robert Kubica (Poland BMW Sauber 1:27.225
10. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Renault 1:26.033
11. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Renault 1:26.232
12. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1:26.247
13. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:26.253
14. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:26.948
15. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Toyota
16. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:26.728 *
17. Rubens Barichello (Brazil) Honda 1:27.323
18. Alexander Wurz (Austria) Williams - Toyota 1:27.454
19. Anthony Davidson (Britain) Super Aguri - Honda 1:27.564
20. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Spyker - Ferrari 1:28.628
21. Takuma Sato (Japan) Super Aguri - Honda 1:28.792
22. Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) Spyker-Ferrari 1:29.688

* Rosberg penalised 10 places for changing his engine.

Japanese GP qualifying as it happened
29 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton leads Alonso in practice
28 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton fuels rift with Alonso
28 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Alonso vows to stay with McLaren
27 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton plans talks with Alonso
27 Sep 07 |  Formula One


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