Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Hamilton claims pole position for Japanese Grand Prix

AP , OYAMA, JAPAN

Fernando Alonso drives in the rain during the qualifying session for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix after finishing fastest in a rain affected qualifying session yesterday.

Hamilton clocked a fastest time of 1 minute, 25.368 seconds at Fuji Speedway. His McLaren teammate, Fernando Alonso, with whom Hamilton has been feuding, was second with 1:25.438.

After the drivers left their cars following qualifying, an ecstatic Hamilton hugged his father and McLaren team members, while defending world champion Alonso stood grim-faced nearby. The teammates got together briefly for a cold shoulder-to-shoulder wave to the crowd before quickly breaking apart.

It was the fourth pole position for Hamilton in his rookie season.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen will start from third on the grid with a time of 1:25.517, while teammate Felipe Massa is one spot back after a time of 1:25.765.

At the Hungarian GP, Alonso had the fastest time and won pole position, but was penalized and set back for delaying eventual winner Hamilton -- with the second fastest time -- in the qualifying. Hamilton won the Hungarian race -- the only time he has beaten Alonso in a race since the French GP in July.

Hamilton started first in that race, meaning he was not credited with pole position according to the sport's governing body, FIA. Since the Hungarian GP, Hamilton and Alonso have rarely spoken, and Alonso's relationship with team boss Ron Dennis is strained too.

It will be interesting to see the rival teammates head into the first corner of the new Fuji circuit in today's race amid forecast rain and foggy conditions. The Japanese GP is being held at Fuji for the first time in 30 years.

"The key is going to be to get down to the first corner," Hamilton said.

At the Belgium Grand Prix two weeks ago, Alonso muscled his way on the inside and refused to budge, forcing Hamilton off the track for a few seconds before he returned. Hamilton described the move as "aggressive."

Now they know they have to be wary of each other, but both were coy in their answers as to what could happen in today's sprint to the first turn.

"We are going to race," Hamilton said. "As Fernando said [before], 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, but in a fair manner," he said.

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