Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix in a rain-hit Fuji qualifying session on Saturday, denying title rival Fernando Alonso with a thrilling final lap.
The championship leader punched the air in delight and gave himself the thumbs-up after taking pole for the fourth time in his stellar rookie season. Hamilton, who leads McLaren teammate Alonso by two points with three races left, bagged top spot right at the end of the session by just 0.070 seconds as he defied the greasy conditions with a time of one minute, 25.368 seconds.
The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa will line up on the second row after being outgunned in a qualifying session that looked at one stage as though it would have to be postponed after practice earlier had been abandoned because of fog.
Hamilton, 22, said, "I'm feeling relaxed and with the way this weekend has gone I am even more relaxed. I know I have got two guys breathing down my neck but I am not bothered. It will be a tough race. The key will be getting to the first corner first."
"I knew it was my last chance at pole and I was delighted when I got it. We had not had much practice in the wet conditions and it was difficult to see the pit boards and know where you were. But it was good fun out there and I am sure if the conditions are changing during the race it will be exciting."
Alonso said, "I really enjoyed driving here at Fuji for the first time. I liked those conditions. I think for everybody it was quite exciting because of the fog. It would have been better to be on pole but I am on the front row, which is important."