Hamilton takes pole at Fuji

29/09/2007
NEWS STORY

Fifteen minutes ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 14 degrees and the track temperature is 20 degrees. Sadly, conditions have hardly improved since this morning's session, the medical ambulance is still unable to take off due the thick fog that engulfs much of the track, and it appears that the session will be delayed, possibly even abandoned, in which case it would take place tomorrow, as happened in 2001.

However, to everyone's surprise, at 14.00 the lights go green and the cars take to the track. It is not raining but it is still damp. Very damp.

There's a mad scramble, and the timing screens light up like a bagatelle as the times tumble. However, within moments we have Massa quickest, ahead of Alonso, Kubica, Davidson, Webber and Heidfeld. That said, moments later Hamilton goes second.

Vettel and Schumacher both spin, but are able to continue. It is highly likely that we are going to have some surprise names at the front of the grid tomorrow, and some equally big surprises at the back.

Heidfeld goes third, behind Massa and Hamilton, but then Alonso goes quickest. However, all eyes are on Raikkonen who is on a hot lap. A minor mistake sees the Finn go sixth, as Vettel goes third.

Trulli goes third, and in all honesty it's hard to keep track, however, at the other end of the timesheets Schumacher is joined by Sutil, Barrichello, Yamamoto, Wurz and Fisichella.

Sato is one of the first to switch to Intermediates, and when the local hero goes eleventh quickest, a number of drivers opt to follow his example.

For a brief moment Button goes third, but is then demoted by Kimi Raikkonen, who crosses the line at 26.061.

Schumacher goes eighth, with three minutes remaining. This drops Rosberg into the 'danger zone'.

Hamilton, currently thirteenth, goes quickest in the first sector. However, he loses time in traffic in the final sector and fails to improve. Next time around - having dropped to eighteenth - he is still trapped in traffic. Nonetheless, he improves with a 25.489 to go third behind Massa and Alonso. Moments later he is demoted by Raikkonen, who goes fourth.

A late charge from Heidfeld sees the German go sixth, as Schumacher collides with a Spyker, the end of his session.

With the yellow flags out as a result of the Schumacher incident, those still out on track are totally compromised.

The first phase is over, and we lose Barrichello, Wurz, Davidson, Sutil, Sato and Yamamoto at the first hurdle. Not a great day thus far for the local heroes. We will probably also lose Schumacher - who qualified tenth - whose car is badly damaged, particularly at the rear.

The second phase gets underway and first out is Trulli, followed by Kubica, Webber and Rosberg. Alonso is also keen to get to work.

Once again, it's fast and furious. Once the dust settles Alonso is quickest, but Hamilton is on a hot lap. The Englishman goes second, ahead of Massa, Raikkonen, Kubica and Webber.

Raikkonen slows down, looking for some free space in all the traffic - after all, there are fifteen cars on track.

Behind the 'big four', Button goes fifth, ahead of Heidfeld, Kubica, Webber, Rosberg and Coulthard.

As Hamilton improves with a 24.753, Raikkonen is ushered into the weighbridge. With just over three minutes remaining, Liuzzi, Kovalainen, Trulli, Fisichella and Coulthard are with Schumacher in the 'danger zone'. Sebastian Vettel is tenth, clearly revelling in the conditions.

Just over ninety seconds remaining and all fifteen drivers are on track, nobody is taking anything for granted.

Heidfeld goes fourth, thereby splitting the Ferraris. Kovalainen is on track, a minor moment raises doubts as to whether he will make the cut. Sure enough, the Finn fails to improve and therefore falls by the wayside, along with Liuzzi, Trulli, Coulthard, Fisichella and Schumacher. Hero of the moment is Sebastian Vettel who finishes tenth, just behind Rosberg. With Rosberg due to lose ten grid spots following his engine change, the young German is guaranteed a top-nine start.

Quickest was Hamilton, ahead of Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Heidfeld, Button, Kubica, Webber, Rosberg and Vettel.

The final phase gets underway, against all odd it might be said, with Hamilton, as usual, leading the pack.

Alonso is quickest, ahead of Massa and Hamilton. A mistake means that Raikkonen is slowest of the ten drivers on track.

Raikkonen improves, to go second, the top ten covered by 3s.

With eight minutes remaining Hamilton pits for brand new intermediates. He is the first driver to stop. Massa is next to stop, he also fits new intermediates.

A strong first sector from Hamilton, but an uninspiring second sector. Indeed, the Englishman fails to significantly improve and can only manage third (25.762). Elsewhere, Alonso pits.

Massa is on a hot lap until he finds himself stuck behind Heidfeld. Elsewhere, Vettel goes seventh.

Amazing reactions from Raikkonen as the Ferrari tries to get away from him. Meanwhile, once again, Hamilton fails to improve.

With just over two minutes remaining, Hamilton pits again. He clearly doesn't feel comfortable.

Alonso goes quickest in the second sector, as Raikkonen goes quickest in the first. Sure enough, Alonso improves with a 25.438, to take provisional pole. Raikkonen improves but remains second.

With five seconds on the clock Hamilton begins his final flying lap. He's quickest in the first sector, and sets a personal best in the second. At the line it's 25.368, the English youngster taking pole by 0.070s.

Therefore, it's Hamilton, Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Button, Webber, Vettel and Kubica. Tremendous performance from Hamilton, but also full credit to Button, Webber and Vettel, who will start from eighth on the grid. While the young German will be delighted to have qualified so high - his team's best ever qualifying result - Robert Kubica will be disappointed with tenth.

All that remains to be seen now is whether the weather will improve or deteriorate over the next twenty-four hours. Hand on heart if we want a real race tomorrow, then a bit more rain would be welcome.

To check out our Fuji qualifying gallery, click here

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Published: 29/09/2007
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