Lewis Hamilton plucked a pole lap out of the hat to head a McLaren front row in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, but left it late to pip team-mate Fernando Alonso.

The Briton appeared to be struggling to get the best from the 'intermediate' Bridgestone tyres, but pitted with just a couple of minutes remaining to fit a lightly used set. The decision left him with one flying lap to improve his position, but the points leader made it count, surviving a close moment with the slowing Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel on the home straight to duck under Alonso's benchmark time.

The Spaniard had already done enough to secure a front row spot, bettering the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa by a tenth and two, while the rest of the field failed to get into the same second zone.

Nick Heidfeld again proved to be 'best of the rest' in fifth, while Nico Rosberg gave his chances a boost by claiming sixth spot, which means that he will be only 16th when the race starts, rather than further back after his engine change.

Jenson Button will move up to the outside of row three after getting Honda into the top ten, while Red Bull could celebrate eighth and ninth courtesy of Mark Webber and Vettel, the German giving Toro Rosso its first ever top ten spot. Robert Kubica rounded out the top ten on times, with Giancarlo Fisichella benefiting from Rosberg's penalty to move onto row five despite missing the Q2 cut.

Full report and result to follow....

 

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