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As it happened: Final Practice and Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
01:30 Hello everyone and welcome to Live as we continue to bring you blow-by-blow coverage from the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix.

Today we will bring you coverage from the third and final practice session and then the vital qualifying hour for tomorrow's race. The schedule looks like this:

01:30 - 02:00 The breakfast bar: Ease your way into Saturday with a look back over Friday's action at Fuji Speedway.
02:00 - 03:00 Live commentary and updates from the final practice session.
03:00 - 05:00 Continuing track updates, as well as weather status, and any breaking news from the circuit.
05:00 - 06:00 Live commentary and updates from the qualifying session.
06:00 - 06:30 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what we can look forward to tomorrow.
06:30 Live commentary ends for today.

01:32 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other forum members.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

01:35 For the second year in a row at this circuit, Saturday brings completely different weather compared to a dry and mainly bright Friday.

Early this morning low cloud and light rain has moved into the area - as shown by the local rainfall radar - wetting the track surface. There are occasional spits and spots of rain in the air at the moment, with conditions expected to continue like this throughout the morning.

Later, towards the early afternoon and the qualifying session, the threat of rain is forecast to diminish significantly, as the cloud cover begins to break slightly.

The top temperature later is tipped to reach 22 degrees Celsius, with track temperatures struggling to get near the 30 degree mark.

Timo Glock, fastest in Practice two.01:40 Friday at the Fuji Speedway was devoid of action for much of the two 90-minute practice sessions - almost boring if you are in the camp that is looking for thrills, spills and talking points. On the other hand, if you enjoy the racing tactics, the strategy of how to run through programmes of tyre and fuel work, then Friday was the perfect case study.

On a clear day the drivers filtered out onto the circuit for the morning session, where McLaren, Ferrari and Renault ruled the timesheets, as they sought to find the early performance level from their cars. The McLaren versus Ferrari battle was captivating for a while, and interesting in that they didn't choose to wait until the midfield teams had run first. Both teams were eager to get to work and use the track time to the maximum.

Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet showed that Renault are likely to continue their strong pace from Singapore. Alonso in particular was spectacular, and buoyed by the performance of his R28. Lewis Hamilton topped the session with a time of 1:18.910, with his title rival just one-and-a-half tenths of a second behind him.

Hamilton tops first practice in Japan

During the break between sessions, the clouds rolled in, changing the track conditions for the drivers ahead of second practice.

The afternoon began with a stunning early flurry of short, new-tyre runs of around four to six laps from many of the drivers. Following this, most of the teams concentrated on race work for a long time, resulting in lengthy periods of no improving laptimes. There were no major spins or off-track incidents. It was all down to the work being carried out by the teams as they sent their drivers out on yet another long run.

Sebastian Vettel and Nick Heidfeld later reported technical trouble in the second session, with the Toro Rosso losing out most to a hydraulic problem and only completing 23 laps.

Eventually, towards the end of the session, some people did lighten their fuel loads a bit, bolting on softer tyres and seeing what their machinery could do around the circuit. Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima were among those to make a big move up the order in the final minutes of practice - but even they could top the time set much earlier by Timo Glock in the Toyota.

Glock put Toyota at the top of the list with a laptime of 1:18.383, with Alonso second, Lewis Hamilton third and Felipe Massa in fourth position. The time difference between Hamilton and Massa was again minimal, with the Briton having the slightest edge over the Brazilian.

Glock puts Toyota on top at Fuji

Felipe Massa in pitlane, Friday01:45 Felipe Massa completed 64 laps of the Fuji Speedway on Friday and professed himself happy with his Ferrari F2008 in both qualifying and race trim.

The Brazilian - seven points behind his world championship rival Lewis Hamilton in the points standings - clocked 1:18.491 in the second session of free practice, finishing just 0.028 seconds slower than the McLaren driver.

Immediately following the session, Felipe spoke to the assembled media outside the Ferrari garage about his day's work.

"It was a very competitive session," said Massa. "I think I maybe could have been slightly quicker, maybe one tenth quicker, because I have a little bit of traffic which didn't help, but anyway I think it was a good lap. The car was responding very good in the first lap and also in the long run, so I think it was a very positive day, and shows that we are quite competitive.

"Here is a reasonable track to be honest - it is not very strong on the tyres, so the soft seems to be working very good in the first lap, but even on the long run I was quite consistent. It's not a difficult track to choose the tyres."

Saturday morning practice will again see the teams running different fuel and tyre strategies as they look ahead to qualifying and the race.

"We wait for tomorrow and the day after to see when everybody will be in the same fuel - maybe we are already, maybe not, we don't know, but tomorrow at least we will know Q1 and Q2, at least, where you are," said Massa.

Lewis Hamilton01:50 Lewis Hamilton ended Friday practice just under three hundredths of a second quicker than Felipe Massa on the timesheet with the rest of the day's running pointing to a close battle between the championship rivals in qualifying today and the race on Sunday.

Hamilton was surrounded by a sizable pack of media as he gave his thoughts on the day.

Lewis said: "The way the day went, we made some good steps forward and found that the car is very competitive here and that's always a good sign that we can compete for a win this weekend. No particular problems - a pretty straightforward day."

The championship leader was of course asked to compare his speed with that of title rival Massa.

"It's a practice day so you don't really know what's going on," said Hamilton. "I think when it gets to qualifying it will be another story, we'll be battling a lot closer maybe, whether it's wet or dry, I think today just showed that we are both very competitive, our cars and our teams are doing a great job and it is just down to us to continue doing a good job."

The fast curves and abrasive asphalt of the track proved tricky for the tyres, and the light rain since Friday practice will have dented the grip levels that built up during the day. Friday's running saw heavy tyre wear for some cars and reports of graining early in a run on new rubber.

"Hopefully the track evolution should improve that," said Hamilton. "There is only graining really with the option (softer) tyre and it's not so bad with it."

9 min: With five minutes to go before practice, the light rain in the area is holding off at the moment, with the rainfall earlier in the day giving a lightly wet track for the start of practice.

Intermediate tyres are likely to be used at the start of the session, with the track drying as the hour goes on, providing the rain does not fall once again.

01:57 Most of the drivers are already sitting in their cars, ready to go out as soon as the green light shines at the end of the pitlane.

01:57 The track and air temperatures are matching each other at 20 Celsius.

01:59 Kazuki Nakajima is told over the Williams team radio that they will send him out onto the track one minute into the session, on extreme wet tyres.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

0 min: Official weather forecast: No rain expected during next 30 minutes.

0 min: Nico Rosberg is the first driver to come out onto the track, with intermediate tyres on the Williams.

1 min: Lewis Hamilton heads out with the safer choice of extreme wet rubber for his installation lap.

2 min: The drivers have poured out onto the circuit for the morning installation laps, and the first of those are now on their way back into the pits.

3 min: Condititions around the circuit are lightly wet in most places - that being water on the surface but no significant standing water.

The track should improve quite quickly if the pack starts running a number of laps.

4 min: Jarno Trulli has overshot the turn 10 chicane. The Italian makes a very late turn, across the grass and rejoins the circuit.

He pits at the end of his installation lap.

No cars on track.

6 min: Nico Rosberg reports on the team radio that the grip level is alright, and the intermediate tyres are fine for the moment.

7 min: Rubens Barrichello breaks the silence and heads out onto the track with extreme wet tyres on his Honda. Jenson Button joins him also with extreme wet tyres on the car.

8 min: Barrichello returns to the pits, but teammate Button crosses the start-finish line to begin a timed lap in the tricky conditions.

10 min: Jenson Button, with a twitch of oversteer as he exits the final corner of the lap, completes the first timed lap of the day with 1:28.661.

10 min: Timo Glock follows Button over the line to start a timed lap in the Toyota.

12 min: Button backs off in the second sector of the lap on his second effort and crosses the line in 1:33.085.

Meantime Glock ends his first timed lap and goes faster than Button with 1:28.146.

12 min: Kimi Raikkonen heads out of the pits on extreme wet tyres to sample the track conditions.

13 min: Jenson Button returns to the pits, as Timo Glock completes his second timed lap with no improvement in time.

14 min: Giancarlo Fisichella has posted a 1:31.738 and is third of the three drivers to have set a laptime so far this morning.

15 min: Robert Kubica goes third with 1:29.630, as Sebastian Vettel crosses the line and goes straight to the top of the list with 1:28.038.

16 min: Heikki Kovalainen is the next man to top the standings as he goes quickest in the McLaren with a 1:27.787.

Lewis Hamilton joins his teammate on the circuit.

16 min: With a quarter of the session gone, Heikki Kovalainen leads the pack with a time of 1:27.787, with Vettel second, Glock third, Button fourth and Nick Heidfeld now in fifth place.

17 min: Sebastien Bourdais slots into third place with 1:28.106, behind Kovalainen and Vettel.

17 min: Kimi Raikkonen is up to fifth quickest after his early efforts on the extreme wet tyre.

18 min: Lewis Hamilton puts his McLaren straight to the top of the order with a 1:27.410.

Hamilton's McLaren is one of the few cars on the intermediate or standard wet tyre.

20 min: Lewis improves further to a 1:26.453 as he demonstrates that the intermediate rubber is ideal for the current track conditions.

20 min: Sebastien Bourdais brakes into turn one and briefly locks up the rear tyres. He applies steering correction but runs wide.

He continues but has since come into the pits.

22 min: Nico Rosberg is back out on the circuit, again with intermediate tyres on his Williams. They propel him to fourth, behind his teammate Kazuki Nakajima as both Williams drivers move up the list.

24 min: Timo Glock comes over the line to take the fastest time at the moment - 1:26.259. The Toyota is using the intermediate tyres as the conditions slowly improve.

25 min: Lewis Hamilton returns to the circuit after a brief spell in the pits. He takes the top spot away from Glock with a 1:25.901 on the intermediate tyre.

25 min: Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg are doing everything in tandem at the moment - that includes going off the track.

Both drivers run wide and briefly off track at turn one. They both continue.

27 min: Felipe Massa is also lapping on the intermediate tyres and has jumped up to third quickest with a 1:26.503, over six tenths slower than Hamilton at this point.

28 min: Adrian Sutil is the only driver yet to set a time in the session so far. He has completed three laps of the track so far, with his Force India teammate Giancarlo Fisichella in 19th place, also in the garage.

29 min: Kimi Raikkonen is back on circuit, now with the intermediate tyres on the Ferrari.

30 min: Fernando Alonso runs wide at the first corner and rejoins the circuit, as does Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams.

Both continue, with Alonso staying out, but Nakajima ending his run and coming into the pits.

31 min: Track conditions continue to improve as the skies overhead brighten a little with the rain moving out of the area as expected.

31 min: Felipe Massa continues to improve his pace and is now second quickest on a 1:26.172.

33 min: Lewis Hamilton leads the standings as we move into the second half of the final practice session, with a laptime in the damp conditions of 1:25.901. Felipe Massa is just over a quarter of a second behind Hamilton in second, with Timo Glock third. All three drivers are in the pits currently.

Nelson Piquet goes fourth with a 1:26.265, Nico Rosberg fifth and Jarno Trulli is in sixth position.

34 min: The racing line continues to dry slowly as the cars lap the Fuji Speedway.

35 min: Sebastien Bourdais goes second in the Toro Rosso as the conditions slowly improve, with a laptime of 1:26.039.

Sebastien continues for another lap but then overruns the first corner, almost going into the gravel.

Bourdais rejoins the racing surface and continues.

37 min: Felipe Massa takes the best time of the session in 1:25.709.

37 min: Nelson Piquet moves up to third place with 1:26.094 as the times continue to come down as the moisture is being cleared from the racing line.

Piquet goes on for another lap against the clock, but the Brazilian runs wide at the turn 10 chicane. He loses a couple of seconds and the lap is completed with no improvement in time.

38 min: Kimi Raikkonen pits the Ferrari and the team practice a pit stop before wheeling the car back into the garage. Raikkonen is only 15th in the classification at the moment.

39 min: Lewis Hamilton is out of his McLaren and he walks off to the back of the garage, clearly in no hurry to run at the moment in these damp conditions.

42 min: Timo Glock moves up to second quickest with a 1:25.857 as he continues to lap on the intermediate tyre.

42 min: Kimi Raikkonen heads out of the Ferrari garage with intermediate tyres on the car.

44 min: Neither Force India driver has come out onto the track in the last 25 minutes. Adrian Sutil has a hydraulics issue preventing him from going out, while on the other side of the garage Giancarlo Fisichella has a problem with his brakes.

They remain down in 19th and 20th positions.

45 min: Mark Webber jumps up to fourth in 1:25.974, before repeating the mistake of many others in running wide on the downhill approach to turn one.

Teammate Coulthard is also in the top ten as the pair lap in ever-improving track conditions.

46 min: Jarno Trulli has spun his Toyota getting on the power out of turn six. He loops the car around, gets underway again and heads back to the pits.

47 min: Timo Glock improves again in the other Toyota with a lap of 1:25.765, but remains in second place behind current pacesetter Felipe Massa.

47 min: Kimi Raikkonen sets his best time of the session - 1:26.805 - but he remains only 15th fastest.

50 min: Kimi Raikkonen improves to 12th position on his latest lap with a time of 1:26.277.

51 min: Giancarlo Fisichella joins the circuit in his Force India. His brakes would appear to be repaired, and we will wait to see if he sets a time.

Adrian Sutil now also comes out onto the circuit in the other Force India.

51 min: Most of the cars are in the pits to consider their last run of the session in the final ten minutes.

The track remains damp in places and may be a little tricky on dry rubber at the moment.

52 min: Kimi Raikkonen has spun the Ferrari in the final corner, losing the rear of the car as he applied the power. He pits the Ferrari.

53 min: Giancarlo Fisichella posts a 1:28.133 and remains in 19th position.

Adrian Sutil has crossed start-finish and is now on his first timed lap of the day.

54 min: Nick Heidfeld improves to 9th quickest in the BMW with a lap of 1:26.120.

54 min: Sebastian Vettel moves up to third position in the Toro Rosso, as Adrian Sutil completes his first timed lap, breaking the beam in 1:29.324 in 20th place.

55 min: Robert Kubica takes third away from Vettel with a 1:25.852 on the intermediate tyre.

The Pole is pressing on into another lap ...

57 min: Kubica improves a fraction on his next lap with a 1:25.824, taking the fastest first sector as he begins his next lap on the ever-improving circuit.

57 min: Adrian Sutil continues round and completes his secnd timed lap, moving ahead of his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella into 19th place with a time of 1:27.929.

He goes on for another lap and improves again with 1:27.742.

57 min: Kubica finally gets the better of Massa's time and goes to the top of the list with a 1:25.697.

58 min: Nelson Piquet goes fastest of all with a lap of 1:25.580, demoting Robert Kubica to second place.

59 min: The Ferrari and McLaren drivers have wrapped up their running for the session, leaving the rest of the field on circuit making a rash of improvements in lap time with the ever-drying conditions.

59 min: Fernando Alionso is now fifth, two-tenths of a second behind his teammate Piquet, having posted a 1:25.799.

60 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

03:02 Felipe Massa did come out right at the flag and is still on a late tour of the circuit as the cars head round to make practice starts from the grid.

03:03 Numerous drivers set fastest times in the final moments of the session, changing the top five order completely.

Robert Kubica went back to the top and ends the session quickest with 1:25.087. Timo Glock was second, Nelson Piquet third, Nick Heidfeld fourth, Kazuki Nakajima fifth and David Coulthard wound up sixth.

All six drivers set their quickest lap on their final lap of the session.

03:05 Rubens Barrichello is the last driver to make it back into pitlane, following the practice starts on the grid at the end of the session.

03:08 Conditions are noticeably brighter now than at the start of the session. The track continues to dry out, with no more rain expected today.

03:09 The round-up and classification is now available after a damp final practice session in Japan:

Kubica fastest in damp final practice

03:39 Conditions are ever-improving over the speedway in the break between final practice and the qualifying session.

The track is continuing to dry out with no further rain expected. Usually the drying process would be aided by support race practice and qualifying sessions. However, today there is no action on the circuit between Formula One sessions.

04:30 The damp session this morning was not ideal preparation for the teams and they head into qualifying without their normal hour of dry running to fine-tune the setup.

Track conditions will also be tricky and are set to change throughout the hour. The rain overnight and running on wet tyres during final practice will have stripped much of the rubber from the surface that was carefully laid during Friday's sessions. This gives the track a 'green' condition, making it more aggressive on the tyres.

A dry line continues to form, but the circuit is only drying slowly and remains damp in some places off-line. The track will dry and improve in grip levels as the laps are completed in the session, meaning it will be a scramble to be out running with the best track conditions late in each segment.

A qualifying session with the potential for some surprise results is 30 minutes away.

04:45 The track surface has continued to dry out since the end of the morning practice session. In the last few minutes the racing line has dried out completely all round the circuit.

Off-line, there are still some damp areas, meaning that the first qualifying period could see only a few cars out in the early stages, but a huge rush for track position by the end of the 20-minute period.

Once the cars have run on the track for those 20 minutes, the rest of the session should be bone dry on all parts of the circuit, allowing for a genuine fight for the top 15 places on the grid in consistent track conditions.

04:55 There are five minutes to go before qualifying gets underway in Japan.

04:55 A packed crowd is on hand at the Fuji Speedway awaiting the start of the qualifying session.

Away from the racing line conditions are still damp and could prove challenging in the early minutes of the session.

04:58 Jenson Button is sitting in his Honda ready for the track to open, as is Felipe Massa, who must be looking to qualify on the front row of the grid this afternoon.

04:58 The track temperature is one degree above the air temperature of 21 Celsius.

04:59 Official weather forecast: No rain expected during qualifying.

0 min: The qualifying session is now underway.

0 min: The green-striped Bridgestone tyres re-appear as the drivers begin to make their way out onto the racetrack.

1 min: Hard, dry tyres are the choice of those to have joined the track so far.

2 min: Conditions are as described in the build-up to the session - dry on the racing line with some damp areas where the cars do not normally run, particularly on the pit straight.

2 min: Nelson Piquet crosses start-finish and will be the first driver to set a time this afternoon.

Twenty drivers are shooting for 15 places in the next qualifying period. We will lose the slowest five drivers after this opening 20 minutes of action.

2 min: Felipe Massa heads out with hard, dry tyres on his Ferrari.

3 min: Nelson Piquet posts a 1:19.286 with Kazuki Nakajima going second with 1:20.462 in the opening moments.

4 min: Felipe Massa is on to his first flying lap as Lewis Hamilton heads out to start his running.

4 min: Nico Rosberg takes second behind Piquet with 1:19.740, but Timo Glock slots into that second place with 1:19.624.

Nelson Piquet returns to the pitlane after one timed lap.

6 min: Jarno Trulli sets the fastest time so far - a 1:19.191, but his teammate Timo Glock goes quicker still with 1:19.010, making it a Toyota one-two at the moment.

6 min: Massa tops the session with his first effort of 1:18.727, despite the odd correction to the Ferrari during the lap.

6 min: Glock stays out there for another lap, and does improve to a 1:18.932, but remains second to new pacesetter Felipe Massa.

7 min: Lewis Hamilton's first lap is the quickest of the session by some margin - 1:18.232.

8 min: Heikki Kovalainen slots in fourth with his McLaren as the Finn clocks a 1:19.053.

9 min: Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber are yet to set a time, with 11 minutes remaining in the first period.

9 min: The pace builds for Ferrari as they warm their tyres into a run of laps. Massa has improved to a 1:18.523, holding second, with Raikkonen up to a 1:18.817 for third.

9 min: Kubica's first effort is a 1:19.038 which places him sixth so far.

10 min: Mark Webber posted a 1:19.675 to go 12th in the Red Bull Renault.

10 min: Heikki Kovalainen continues to lap and has split the Ferraris with the third quickest effort of 1:18.749.

11 min: Fernando Alonso takes sixth away from Robert Kubica with 1:18.961.

11 min: Nick Heidfeld is the last of the 20 drivers to post a time on the board, and the German goes only 16th in the second BMW - straight into the dropzone with just over eight minutes remaining.

12 min: Nelson Piquet uses his second run to good effect, vaulting up the order to second with a 1:18.300.

14 min: All drivers have now set a time in the first period of qualifying for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix.

Nick Heidfeld stays out there for a second lap and moves up to 13th from 16th.

Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil are in the final five places, and must improve in the remaining five minutes or they will face elimination.

14 min: Jarno Trulli is now fifth in the Toyota but has thrown away an improving lap with an oversteer moment and pitted the car.

14 min: David Coulthard instantly vaults out of the dropzone and into fourth place with a 1:18.540, however he needed to bolt on a set of soft tyres to do so.

15 min: Timo Glock signalls that the track conditions continue to improve as he puts the Toyota quickest on the harder tyre in 1:18.138.

16 min: Coulthard's improvement drops Sebastian Vettel into the knockout zone. The German is joined by Rosberg, Webber, Sutil and Fisichella.

All five are in the pits and have just one run and four minutes remaining.

17 min: Sebastian Vettel is the first of the final five to come out onto the track. He will likely get two timed laps.

Mark Webber leaves the pits with 3:06 remaining.

17 min: The track temperature has increased to 24 Celsius as the sun breaks through the clouds at Fuji.

The leading runners are all coming out again for another attempt on the ever-improving track surface.

18 min: Nico Rosberg exits the pitlane with just over two minutes left on the clock. Rosberg, Sutil and Fisichella will only have one shot at a time. Vettel and Webber should have two attempts available.

18 min: Heikki Kovalainen moves up to second after his next run but Felipe Massa tops the table for now with a 1:18.110 on the harder tyre.

19 min: Sebastian Vettel sets a 1:18.559 to move inside the top ten and possibly to safety.

19 min: Hamilton crosses the line to take the lead of the session from Massa by a fraction.

19 min: Jenson Button is now dropped into the knockout zone following Vettel's improvement.

20 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

05:20 Mark Webber goes seventh and is now safely through to the next period of qualifying.

05:20 Timo Glock sets a late flyer of 1:17.945 to finish the first period of qualifying fastest of all.

05:20 Fernando Alonso is in the dropzone! The Spaniard goes sixth on his final lap and is through to the next round.

05:21 Jenson Button does not improve on his final attemopt and is out - 18th.

05:22 Kimi Raikkonen's final run put him 4th, within a tenth of both Massa and Hamilton ahead of him.

05:22 Eliminated drivers following the first period of qualifying:

16) Heidfeld
17) Barrichello
18) Button
19) Sutil
20) Fisichella.

05:24 It is a disaster for Nick Heidfeld and the German falls at the first hurdle in qualifying.

On Thursday he spoke about recent improving performance and things not looking too bad, but this result is very unfortunate for the BMW driver, and a points finish in the race is a long way off from the eighth row of the grid.

05:25 The track temperature continues to climb in the sunshine at Fuji and is now up to 26 Celsius.

05:26 The remaining 15 drivers now re-focus, and get ready for the second period of qualifying, which starts soon.

0 min: The battle to get in to the top ten on the grid is now underway.

1 min: The first minute of the second qualifying period passes with no-one taking to the circuit.

2 min: Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa lead the cars out onto the circuit, both cars fitted with the softer tyre.

3 min: Timo Glock joins the Ferraris on the track in the Toyota.

3 min: Jarno Trulli makes it another team formation with both Toyotas now on the circuit.

4 min: Lewis Hamilton joins the circuit as the pair of Ferraris begin their flying laps.

4 min: More drivers are coming out as the first timed laps are being started. Vettel, Bourdais and Mark Webber also come out.

4 min: Kimi Raikkonen sets the first benchmark of the period at a quick 1:17.733.

5 min: 13 of the 15 drivers are now on-track, with only Robert Kubica and Kazuki Nakajima still in the pits.

5 min: Felipe Massa comes over the line and takes a big chunk out of his teammate's time. Massa is quickest with a rapid 1:17.287.

6 min: The Toyotas go third and fourth behind the Ferrari duo - Trulli ahead of Glock.

6 min: Hamilton responds in the McLaren and goes second quickest with a 1:17.462.

7 min: Fernando Alonso is on a very fast first sector, with soft tyres on the Renault. The Spaniard takes a strange line on the start-finish straight, but completes the lap and goes ninth with a 1:18.181.

8 min: Heikki Kovalainen slots in third in a time of 1:17.563, lapping on the same choice of softer tyres as the other front runners.

8 min: Kazuki Nakajima goes 12th with his first timed lap, a 1:18.594.

9 min: Toro Rosso drivers Vettel and Bourdais have enjoyed a positive first run, slotting in sixth and eighth respectively.

10 min: Robert Kubica only just made it through the first period but is up to seventh with a 1:17.931 on the softer tyre.

11 min: Fernando Alonso's strange line on his fast lap may be explained by Nelson Piquet's first run. The Brazilian was on a lap but came into the pits, and has yet to set a time.

It is possible, although obviously unconfirmed at this stage, that the radio call went out to Alonso initially. Fernando looked like he was going to come into the pits, and crossed the white line at full speed when completing his timed effort.

11 min: Most of the cars are in the pits, with the notable exception of Heikki Kovalainen who is going for another flying lap on the harder tyre.

12 min: Nelson Piquet finally posts his first time in the second period, and he goes 12th with a 1:18.274.

13 min: Kovalainen flashes over the line to demote his teammate from second. His 1:17.360 is within two tenths of Massa's leading time.

13 min: Kimi Raikkonen is heading out with the pack for another attempt while Massa and Hamilton feel secure and remain in the garage.

13 min: David Coulthard, Nelson Piquet, Mark Webber, Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg are all in the knockout zone with just over one minute and one final attempt remaining.

These five drivers must improve their position or face elimination.

14 min: Nelson Piquet is back in the pits and is therefore eliminated.

15 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

05:42 Kazuki Nakajima is over a tenth of a second down in the first sector of the lap compared to the 10th placed time. He is very slow in the second sector - Nakajima is eliminated.

05:42 There are improvements throughout the field which will shuffle the order as they all cross the line.

05:43 Kimi Raikkonen failed to improve with a lap of 1:17.785 and remains seventh.

05:43 Eliminated drivers following the second period of qualifying:

11) Coulthard
12) Piquet
13) Webber
14) Nakajima
15) Rosberg.

05:46 Nelson Piquet qualifies 12th for the Japanese Grand Prix.

There was clearly some issue on his first run, meaning he had to come back into the pits. He came out again a few minutes later but was already chasing a moving target by then, and ultimately he didn't make it through, failing to make the cut by just under two-tenths of a second.

05:49 The top ten who will contest the best places on the grid for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix are Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen.

0 min: The fight for pole in Japan is underway.

0 min: No takers in the opening minute of the ten minutes that are available.

1 min: Timo Glock leads the field on to the circuit for the first round of laps.

1 min: With a short lap length and short laptime therefore, the teams will have calculated that they can complete their two runs in a short time easily within the ten minute window.

2 min: Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastien Bourdais come out onto the circuit.

2 min: Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel join the racetrack.

2 min: Lewis Hamilton rolls out of the McLaren garage with the softer tyres on his car.

3 min: Timo Glock is the first man to start a timed lap. He has the harder tyres on the Toyota.

3 min: Fernando Alonso also comes out, and will start his first timed attempt as others will be finishing theirs.

4 min: Heikki Kovalainen is the last man out of the pits in the McLaren.

4 min: Glock sets the first time at a 1:19.890.

4 min: Kimi Raikkonen sets a 21.5 second first sector and is a tenth quicker than his teammate Massa in the first section.

The Finn is flying in the Ferrari and he posts a 1:18.890.

5 min: Jarno Trulli's first lap is poor - a 1:21.355.

5 min: Felipe Massa's first effort is a 1:19.137, which puts him second to Raikkonen.

5 min: Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais go fifth and sixth in the opening stages with a few cars still to finish their first timed laps.

5 min: Lewis Hamilton slots in third on his first attempt, just fractions behind Massa despite the fastest middle sector of the lap.

6 min: Fernando Alonso goes fifth in the Renault with 1:19.640.

7 min: Robert Kubica takes fourth, only to be dropped to fifth as Heikki Kovalainen comes round to make it Raikkonen, Massa, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Kubica after the first runs.

7 min: Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa come into the pits, take on a fresh set of tyres and go back out onto the track, ready for their final run as they aim for a one-two in qualifying.

8 min: Kimi Raikkonen starts his final effort. He has a clear track and is again stunning in the first sector of the circuit.

8 min: Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to start his second run, with the Ferraris ahead on the road setting fast times.

9 min: Raikkonen is flying as he lights up the timing monitor in the second sector too. The Finn completes the lap and is on pole for now with 1:18.644.

9 min: Hamilton is quicker than pacesetter Raikkonen in the first and second sectors of the lap.

9 min: Felipe Massa goes second to Raikkonen with 1:18.874.

9 min: Hamilton drives for the line and takes pole in Japan!

10 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

10 min: Fernando Alonso completes his last effort and moves the Renault into third place with 1:18.852.

06:01 Heikki Kovalainen finishes his late lap to take third in the McLaren.

06:01 It is a disaster for championship hopeful Felipe Massa who has qualified only fifth for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix.

06:02 Lewis Hamilton jumps out of his car in parc ferme after a fantastic qualifying result for his championship hopes.

06:03 Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for the Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix. Alongside him will be Kimi Raikkonen, returning to form nicely. Heikki Kovalainen starts on the second row of the grid in third with Fernando Alonso an excellent fourth.

Felipe Massa will start tomorrow's race from fifth place on the grid.

06:06 Although Felipe Massa has ended up fifth on the grid, his time of 1:18.874 was just 0.053 seconds away from third place.

06:08 The report and classification from the qualifying hour is now available:

Hamilton secures Japanese GP pole

"I think the best pole of his life. I do. I think it's a critical time, we've made no sacrifices for our race strategy so it was a tremendous effort, and Heikki's effort too. A real team high at the moment. We'll enjoy the moment, but we're very focused on tomorrow."
Ron Dennis speaking to British broadcaster ITV

"It wasn't a perfect session. He (Massa) was complaining a little bit of lack of grip, but I think that our strategy is good for tomorrow so you know that's what we need as well. Formula One's so tight now, you have to do absolutely everything perfect, and I don't think the lap was absolutely perfect, and the car wasn't absolutely there for him as it usually is, so we're quite happy with our race pace so we'll wait and see tomorrow. "
Rob Smedley, Ferrari speaking to German broadcaster Premiere

06:30 Saturday has produced an excellent day of action, with two very different Formula One sessions at the Fuji Speedway.

This morning light showers wet the track, making for a damp, but far from dull final hour of practice. Laptimes on a continually drying track surface were rendered meaningless, but memories of the 2007 event came flooding back, as the drivers battled for grip on the wet surface.

The track was largely dry by the time qualifying started, with - as always - some surprises along the way.

Nick Heidfeld was the first shock exit, dropping out in the first phase of qualifying, having not been able to find any decent balance on his BMW Sauber. He will start the race from 16th place, with both Hondas and both Force India drivers joining him.

The second period of qualifying saw both Williams cars eliminated, along with both Red Bulls and Nelson Piquet's Renault. The Brazilian lost crucial time in the second 15-minute phase and was only able to complete a couple of timed laps.

The shootout for pole was enthralling, and it looked for all the world like Ferrari were going to lockout the front row of the grid. Raikkonen and Massa were one-two after the first of two runs for the ten drivers and, as they were the first drivers on track, they were provisionally one-two after their second attempts - but crucially other drivers were ready to challenge their times.

Lewis Hamilton quickly blew the Ferrari party away by taking pole with an excellent 1:18.404, knocking Raikkonen down to second. Ferrari's misery was complete a few seconds later, as Fernando Alonso and then Heikki Kovalainen split the red cars, dropping Massa to an incredible fifth.

Sunday is another day and Ferrari simply have to turn the tables on the McLaren duo. Join us tomorrow from 00:30 GMT to see whether silver or red comes out on top in the land of the rising sun.

Session Length: 60 minutes
 View official live timing
Mainly sunny High Temp: 22°C / 72°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 06 Oct Start GMT
 Japanese Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 10 Oct
 Friday Practice 00:30
Saturday 11 Oct
 Final Practice and Qualifying 01:30
Sunday 12 Oct
 Raceday at Fuji Speedway 00:30
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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