NASCAR & Auto Racing

Hamilton takes pole at Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Alonso

OYAMA, Japan – Lewis Hamilton took the pole position in wet conditions for the Japanese Grand Prix by having the fastest time in a weather-affected qualifying session on Saturday.

Hamilton finished in 1 minute, 25.368 seconds. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, with whom Hamilton has been feuding, was second with 1:25.438.

It was the fourth pole position for Hamilton this season. At the Hungarian GP, Alonso had the fastest time and won the pole position, but was penalized and set back for delaying Hamilton – with the second-fastest time – in the qualifying.

Hamilton started first in the race, meaning he was not credited with the pole position, according to the sport’s governing body, FIA.

It will be interesting for the drivers heading into the first corner of the new circuit amid rain and foggy conditions. It’s also the first F1 race here in 30 years.

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 Sunday’s sprint to the first turn.

“We are going to race,” Alonso said.

“We are going to race,” Hamilton repeated. “As Fernando said (before) we are not idiots. We want to finish the race and score points.”

The Ferrari and McLaren drivers have won all of the 14 races to date with Alonso and Raikkonen taking four each, including splitting the past two.

Hamilton started his last lap just before the end of the session.

“It was quite a good lap. I was happy with it. I knew it was the last chance I had,” Hamilton said. “As I exited the last turn, I saw a Ferrari and he started to move over, but he was just avoiding the white line.

“On the last lap I wasn’t thinking about the championship. I was thinking about getting the pole position,” Hamilton said.

Two-time defending Formula One world champion Alonso has beaten Hamilton in five of the last six races, and the British driver’s one-time 14-point lead has shrunk to just two (97-95) with three races left in the season.

Hamilton is clinging to the chance to become the first rookie to take the F1 title amid a tumultuous two months that has seen McLaren embroiled in dispute over possession of technical data belonging to rival Ferrari.

After being found guilty by FIA, McLaren was fined $100 million.