Having had to sit through the downpour that cancelled qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton admitted that no longer knew what to expect as the stewards ensured that race day would become a lot busier - and a lot more crucial to his championship chances.

The Briton, who slipped to third in the standings after coming off worst in a collision with points leader Mark Webber in the Singapore Grand Prix, has already endured a tough weekend at Suzuka, crashing out of Friday morning practice and having to wait for his car to be repaired before returning to the track for ten minutes of the afternoon session. However, that short run, as well as Saturday's morning's washed-out hour of practice would have given Hamilton little indication of his potential for points on Sunday as he was relying on a member of McLaren's back-up team flying from Woking to Japan with replacement parts to repair the latest-spec rear wing package damaged in the off at Degner.

Although he was subsequently ready for qualifying, the weather gods had other ideas, with the rain that limited the majority of the field to just a handful of exploratory laps during the morning preventing the grid from being set. Instead of a leisurely build-up to the race on Sunday, Hamilton and his 23 rivals will now have to qualify at 10am - and the Briton is already facing a tough time having been forced to change his gearbox and take a five-place grid penalty as a result.

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"I don't think we have any expectations," he admitted to the official F1 website before being made aware of the penalty, "I want to get through qualifying safely and get as good a position as possible with the limited time that I have on the track. In the race, I hope to make my way forward and score as many points as I can."

The 2008 world champion, currently 20 points off the pace in the championship, insists that qualifying on race day holds no fears, and hopes to make the most of a busy day.

"We drivers like to drive, so this is not an issue," he claimed, "And, as I have done no driving this weekend, I am very much looking forward to getting back into the car again. Obviously, we will all have to arrive much earlier than we normally do on a Sunday - I guess we will all be here at seven or 7.30 for what will be an unusually long day!

"Naturally, it will be paramount not to damage the car, as there will only be three hours between qualifying and the race and it would be very hard to repair a lot of damage. I definitely hope that the conditions will be better tomorrow."

Should the rain not abate, race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed that the field would line-up in numerical order, putting the two McLarens on the front row before Hamilton's gearbox punishments takes effect.

"I definitely would like to do qualifying, but I could also go with the worst-case scenario, as then [McLaren team-mate] Jenson [Button] would start from pole position and I would start from P2," he confirmed, "But I would still prefer to have a qualifying session, even if it is wet or damp."

Despite reporting some of the worst conditions he had ever experienced in his short F1 career, Hamilton insists that qualifying being washed out may actually have played to his advantage.

"It was unbelievable!" he said of the persistent rain that left parts of the Suzuka track under water, "Rivers were coming across the track from one side to the other. It was just crazy! I like going out in the wet, but to keep the tyres at the right temperature we have to go at a certain pace and that was completely impossible. There was aquaplaning everywhere. These cars are so strong - I think we are putting 700 or 800 horsepower down - and then to try to pull away in fourth gear! You just feel like a passenger."

Despite having slept for much of the scheduled qualifying hour, Hamilton is well aware that his McLaren crew had worked hard to make sure his car was in the best shape to take part whenever the green light was given.

"I was sleeping at the back of the garage and, every time there was a new time set to check the track, they woke me up 15 minutes beforehand," he confirmed, "Yesterday I did so much damage to the car, but the guys have now had enough time to fix everything perfectly again. I didn't get a real feel of where the car is at the moment. There was a different feeling because of the rear wing but, with today's conditions, which meant we haven't run at all, and the few laps we did on Friday, it is hard to say anything definite. When we got ready for practice three this morning, the car was not 100 per cent, but tomorrow it will be."