Hamilton seizes Japan GP pole from Alonso

FUJI, Japan, Sep 29 (Reuters) Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position from McLaren team mate and bitter rival Fernando Alonso with a last gasp flying lap at the end of a wet and foggy Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session today.

The championship-leading rookie, who has accused Alonso of disloyalty and unsporting behaviour, pummelled the air in jubilation with his fists after shoving the Spaniard into second place.

Double world champion Alonso, two points behind Hamilton with three races left, was on top at the chequered flag but Hamilton pulled out all the stops on his final run to beat him by 0.070 seconds.

The pole position, at a track he only saw for the first time on Thursday, was the 22-year-old Briton's fifth in 15 Formula One races.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, the third man in a thrilling title battle and 13 points adrift of Hamilton, qualified third with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa fourth.

Ferrari have already secured the constructors' championship after McLaren were fined a record 100 million dollars and stripped of all their 2007 points for having Ferrari technical information in their possession.

''I'm in a perfect position although obviously I've got these two (Alonso and Raikkonen) breathing down my neck,'' said Hamilton.

''But I'm not really too bothered.

''Tomorrow's going to be a tough battle. We are obviously all extremely close in time, but the key is going to be getting down to the first corner.'' VETTEL EXCELS The two McLarens clashed at the first corner in Belgium two weeks ago, with Alonso forcing Hamilton off the track as the Briton tried to go past. Hamilton, fourth in that race, has said repeatedly since then that he will be more aggressive next time.

''We're going to race and we'll see. As Fernando said, we're not idiots,'' he said today.

''We want to finish the race and score points. We will obviously attack each other in, I hope, a fair way.'' Germany's Nick Heidfeld qualified fifth for BMW Sauber, with Briton Jenson Button a surprising sixth for Honda in that team's highest grid placing of the year.

Williams' Nico Rosberg would have been on the third row instead of Button but a 10 place penalty for an engine change demoted the German out of the top 10.

Another German, rookie Sebastian Vettel, stood out in seizing eighth place for Toro Rosso. The team's first appearance in the top 10 on the starting grid gave them a real chance of scoring their first points of the season.

Vettel will start alongside Australian Mark Webber's Red Bull on the fourth row.

Toyota, appearing at their own circuit, had nothing to celebrate with Germany's Ralf Schumacher colliding with Spyker's Japanese Sakon Yamamoto at the end of the first session and shattering his car's rear suspension.

Schumacher, his future in the sport looking increasingly uncertain with his contract expiring at the end of the year, starts 16th.

The weather could play a big part in tomorrow's proceedings, with today'sfinal practice cancelled and organisers drawing up a contingency plan before qualifying to postpone the session to tomorrow should conditions have failed to improve.

Hamilton was not worried, however: ''I hope it's wet,'' he declared. ''I'm not really bothered either way.'' REUTERS pds nd1332

Story first published: Saturday, September 29, 2007, 14:42 [IST]
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