Lewis Hamilton has avoided the possibility of dropping even further down the Japanese Grand Prix grid after race stewards rejected claims that he had impeded a rival during Sunday morning's delayed qualifying session.

The Briton was already facing a five-place drop on the grid after being forced to change the gearbox in his McLaren, reportedly the legacy of his collision with Mark Webber in Singapore, and, when Williams protested his tactics in final qualifying, Hamilton faced the prospect of starting even further back than the eighth place he finds himself in at Suzuka.

The 2008 world champion was accused of backing off too much in order to give himself a clear lap for qualifying, holding Williams' Nico Hulkenberg in the process. The young German claimed that the gap Hamilton created was excessive because there was no car immediately ahead of him, but the stewards decided that there was no case to answer, and rejected the option of adding to the Briton's earlier penalty.

With Hulkenberg lining up ninth, the two will start together on the grid, sandwiched between the second Williams of Rubens Barrichello and the Mercedes of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

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