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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - RACEDAY AT FUJI SPEEDWAY
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Raceday at Fuji Speedway
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
00:30 Hello and welcome to autosport.com Live for raceday at Fuji Speedway, as we approach the 2008 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix.

Today we will be bringing you updates and news from the circuit in the build-up to the race and a look back at the qualifying hour, along with live text commentary of the race itself.

00:40 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other autosport.com 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.

00:50 A dry race is in store weather-wise, with no rain having fallen at the circuit since the early showers on Saturday morning.

A bright and sunny morning will gradually become cloudy and overcast as we move towards race time, but with air temperatures struggling to reach only 16 degrees Celsius under the clouds it will feel chilly in the open-air grandstands.

The cool ambient also causes concern for the teams and drivers as they attempt to generate tyre temperature during the event and get the rubber in its all-important operating window. The track temperature is currently hovering around 20 Celsius.

01:00 Saturday's qualifying session was dominated by green track conditions, following early morning rain and a wet final hour of morning practice.

Kimi Raikkonen spins during Saturday morning practiceThe morning session saw frequent minor incidents, as drivers locked up, sliding straight ahead at many of the tight corners around the circuit. With conditions forecast to improve for qualifying, laptimes were somewhat meaningless.

Kubica fastest in damp final practice

Indeed, the racing line was dry by the time qualifying commenced, although away from the line damp patches remained.

The three-tier knockout system often produces surprises and, yet again, there was a shock exit in the first 20-minute period as Nick Heidfeld could only manage a time of 1:18.835 to place 16th on the grid. The disappointed German later said that he found very little grip on the circuit, although his cause was hindered by sticking with the harder compound tyres for his last run - at a time when many of the drivers around him were going for the ultimate lap on the softer rubber.

Heidfeld was shuffled down the order as others improved. Joining him in the FIA weighing area after the first phase were both Honda drivers, Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, as well as both Force India drivers, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella.

The remaining drivers fought a terrific 15-minute battle for a place in the top ten shootout. Nelson Piquet admitted to making a mistake on each of his first two runs, leaving him little chance of making it through. The Renault driver was out, failing to make the cut by just under two-tenths of a second. Joining Piquet on the sidelines would be David Coulthard - out-qualifying his teammate Mark Webber in the Red Bull squad, along with Williams drivers Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton, Saturday qualifyingThe top ten made their way out for the final ten-minute dash to decide the best grid positions for today's race. The first run saw the Ferraris to the fore, with Hamilton appearing unable to match them, but on the final run the championship leader dramatically turned the tables on the Scuderia with a lap of 1:18.404 to steal the pole, leaving a surprised Kimi Raikkonen second on the grid.

The situation quickly got worse as Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso split the Ferraris, plummeting title contender Felipe Massa down to fifth place. Robert Kubica drove well to claim six for BMW, with a lap including race fuel load that was under one tenth of a second slower than teammate Nick Heidfeld's best attempt in the opening phase. Toyota and Toro Rosso rounded out the top ten with Jarno Trulli seventh, Timo Glock eighth, Sebastian Vettel ninth and Sebastien Bourdais again qualifying well in tenth spot.

Hamilton secures Japanese GP pole

01:15 The first support action of the day is underway at the Fuji Speedway.

The Netz Cup cars are now locked in battle. This is a one-make series for road-legal 1500cc Toyotas - better known as the Yaris outside Japan.

Timo Glock01:30 Toyota driver Timo Glock has shown himself to be one of the stars of this Japanese Grand Prix weekend. The German-based, Japanese team are playing at home, and keen to regain the fourth position in the constructors' standings that they lost to Renault - thanks to Fernando Alonso's superb victory in Singapore two weeks ago.

Timo was on the pace from the word go, being at or near the top of the classification in all three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning.

As the top two teams and Fernando Alonso came to the fore, Glock slipped down the pecking order to eighth by the end of qualifying. The German later spoke to the press outside the Toyota motorhome and talked about his weekend.

“I think we had a good weekend so far and it was quite a good session I would say. It's not too bad for us – both cars in the top ten ... a bit disappointing from yesterday when we were quickest in free practice two, but this morning with the rain the whole rubber went away and it was a bit slippery this morning again and in qualifying and that cost us a bit of performance in qualifying three especially, and we struggled a bit in the qualifying three with the fuel load and the soft tyre.”

Tyre performance is critical this weekend and Glock is banking on the grip returning to the track surface, as the cars put rubber down during the race.

“Hopefully we will get some more rubber on the track tomorrow. That will definitely help and when it is nice and sunny it is another gain for us. We would have been a bit better without the rain this morning, but we have to take it like it is and get both cars in the points. Unfortunately Fernando is in front of us – we have to make the best out of it tomorrow.”

Looking ahead to today's 67-lap encounter, the 26-year-old could be forgiven for dreaming of a big result this weekend after such a strong performance earlier in practice.

“It would be a dream to be on the podium or even win the race, but this will be difficult," he said. "I think in the last week since I arrived I have been saying we have to have a good weekend, and so far it turned around quite well, and I will go on like that into tomorrow and the race and try my best, fight as hard as possible for all the fans here and for Toyota especially.”

01:43 Hot on the heels of the Netz Cup is the second and final support race, the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan.

This is the final race of the season for the 911 GT3 Cup field as they tackle 12 laps of the Fuji Speedway.

Fernando Alonso02:05 Fernando Alonso continued the recent string of impressive Renault performances by qualifying fourth for today's race at Fuji.

The double world champion has been on something of a points rush recently, scoring 25 points in the last five races - an upward trend that the Spaniard is very pleased with.

“Obviously, we had the performance also in Spa, in Monza and in Singapore, and the qualifyings always were wet or we had a problem in Singapore, so finally a normal qualifying was good for us and the fourth position is even a little bit better than we expected but obviously I'm extremely happy,” said Alonso.

“I think the team is used to winning. The engineers, mechanics ... they were here two years ago when we won the world championship so these guys, they need the feeling of success. You know after Singapore everyone was so excited and happy – we want more and more and hopefully we can win more races.”

Coming back to this weekend, Fernando explained how his qualifying session unfolded, and gave his teammate Nelson Piquet a vote of confidence.

“The car is good to drive, especially I think in the long run pace. We did improve the car a lot in the last couple of months. We saw today again – Q1, Q2 a little bit struggling and Q3 when we put the fuel on board the car seems to be a little bit better in terms of set-up, so happy for tomorrow's run.

“I think Nelson did a fantastic job here this weekend. In Q1 and Q2 maybe he was a little bit quicker than me, so it was a shame not to see him in Q3, but I think tomorrow he has a good starting point – maybe he can choose a different strategy and score points for the team, which is important. He's coming quicker and quicker and is obviously another rival for me.”

This afternoon, Alonso will be aiming to score points for the fourth race in a row. With just three races remaining, points are vital to Renault as they battle over fourth place in the constructors' championship against a strong Toyota outfit. Alonso looked ahead to the race, and spoke about his chances of mixing it with Felipe Massa.

Fernando said: “I thought that Felipe and Hamilton would probably be in the first row, both of them, but for whatever reason Felipe is fifth and I am fourth, so I am happy to be in front of one Ferrari but I think tomorrow in the race that will be much more difficult to keep him behind.”

Kimi Raikkonen02:30 Racing drivers are a rare breed, and Kimi Raikkonen was the epitome of that following qualifying on Saturday. No matter how fast you are, whether it is at the bottom or near the top of the timesheets, you will always want more and more performance from your machinery.

Raikkonen looked all set to claim his first pole position since the French Grand Prix in June, but on the final run Lewis Hamilton surged to the top with a lap over two tenths of a second faster than the Ferrari driver.

Afterwards, a subdued Raikkonen spoke to the press in the paddock about his qualifying run.

"The car was not too bad for me but still not what we want, not what I want exactly, even with the issues what we still have we can be as fast as this so I know if it would be like we wanted we could be much faster," said Raikkonen. "Second place is better than it has been for a little while.

"It keeps changing (the issues), but for the new tyres and it turns out to be always better in the race, hopefully we can have the same tomorrow."

"We know that once we get the car exactly as we want, we have more than good chances to be all the time in the first places. It's a shame that we - it's a bit frustrating sometimes - when you know that it is not right and still you can be okay on the lap times but you know that once you get it right, it could be much better."

The world champion's candid words echoed loudly of a man who was less than pleased with his qualifying session, and clearly he had been aiming for pole position.

Immediately, thoughts turn to how much fuel the Finn actually has on-board his F2008. Time of course will tell, and the first stint of the race between McLaren and Ferrari now has an extra 'edge' to it, with Raikkonen the likely hare, aiming to get out front and control Hamilton's pace during the early laps, possibly bringing Massa more into play.

Raikkonen continued: "The race has usually been better for us, so hopefully tomorrow we can challenge for a win but we'll see what we can do. I'm interested to win the race, that's all, I'll see what I can do and of course we try to get the maximum points for the team and that's what we aim.

"We win if we can - it's not going to change our lives if we cannot win but of course we want maximum points, if you can win it's the easiest way to get them, so it would be perfect if we can win but it's too early to say, there is a long race ahead of us, in the last race, if I look, there is many things that can happen, so we'll do the best that we can and see."

02:58 Throughout the morning the cloud cover has increased, with more cloud expected to build as we head towards the start of the race.

The next action for the gathering large crowd to be entertained by is the drivers' parade, which begins shortly.

03:16 The drivers' parade has concluded and the drivers make their way back into the pitlane.

Around the circuit the sky is now filled with high, white cloud, with conditions now lightly overcast.

03:22 Down on the grid, the cultural presentation is in progress.

The parade centres around one of the world’s largest Japanese drums, which is being slowly wheeled along the pit straight. The drum measures 2.1 meters in diameter, 3.776 metres from its base, coinciding with the height of Mount Fuji at 3776 metres.

The performance is said to express the “Harmony” of Japanese culture and “Mount Fuji”.

Lewis Hamilton03:30 Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix in qualifying on Saturday with an impressive lap of 1:18.404. With Kimi Raikkonen, Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso all slotting in on the grid before title rival Felipe Massa, Lewis is well-placed to take a major step in his championship campaign this afternoon.

Hamilton was happy with his day's work as he spoke with the world's media after the session.

"We showed that we have great pace so it has been good for us." he said. "The first lap I did in Q1 felt great, I think that the tyres weren't at the right temperature - the were over pressured so came in too quickly and went off too quickly. So then we changed those settings and went in Q2 and it wasn't very good, you know the lap felt a bit dodgy, the rear tyres dropped off again, so I wasn't feeling fantastic, I thought they (Ferrari) were very competitive and it was going to be tough to beat them in Q3.

"Every now and then sometimes you put fuel in the car and its a dog to drive and sometimes you put fuel in and it feels fantastic and it did today, the car felt good, felt strong, and didn't particularly have any moments during the lap so I was able to put all the sectors together - except the last one I think I lost a bit of time in turn 16.

"I think we've been very careful with strategy we choose so therefore we've not gone stupidly aggressive to put ourselves ahead, and it was really down to putting a good lap together and most of the lap went perfect, it was just the last corner, I missed the apex by a metre or so, I didn't lose that much time, I'm sure it was half a tenth or something but generally it was a great lap."

Tyres have once again been a crucial factor, with the rubber wearing quickly and graining for the early laps on new tyres. The well-known difference in tyre use between the Ferrari and McLaren will have influenced the qualifying result in favour of Hamilton, although Friday practice demonstrated that Ferrari will be strong in the race over a long run of laps.

Hamilton said: "The two tyres, I think the option tyre, the softer tyre, is the better of the two in terms of a short period of laps but the harder tyre seems to have a little bit less grip but is more consistent - less graining, less sliding - so we have to see."

Thoughts turned to the race and the fact that Lewis does not have to beat Kimi Raikkonen today, but he must finish and try to extend his advantage over Massa in the drivers' standings.

"Well, I'll never let anyone past," said Lewis with a smile. "If I'm out in front I'll push to win the race but, you know, if we, when the time comes, I guess we'll deal with it the best way I can and make sure whatever happens we finish the race in the points.

"Definitely a very good position for me and my teammate Heikki and I don't know what the reason for Felipe's fifth position but surely he - I can only assume he made a mistake or something - but he will be strong in the race."

03:40 With the cultural presentation now complete, the grid girls march into position in front of the busy main grandstand. A breeze is blowing, fluttering the flags now being held aloft at the front of the grid.

03:47 The safety car draws into position at the front of the grid.

With no rain expected, despite the overcast conditions, the big Mercedes will be leaving the grid five minutes before the formation lap, avoiding a repeat of last year's safety car start.

Sebastian Vettel03:50 In ninth place on the starting grid we find the young Toro Rosso star Sebastian Vettel. The ever-cheerful German qualified inside the top ten for the fifth time in a row yesterday, and stands a good chance of scoring points this afternoon.

Sebastian was reasonably happy with his performance as he later explained: "It was initially quite difficult obviously. The track was very green after the rain last night, so it was difficult for all of us I think, but we made it to Q3 ... another one so that was very good."

Both Vettel and his teammate Sebastien Bourdais have made no secret in recent races that the STR3 reacts very differently to their input when fuel is added to the car for the third qualifying period.

Once again this was the case, as Vettel told the throng of reporters waiting outside the FIA weighing area after the session.

"In Q3 I think we were struggling, especially with the higher fuel load. The car didn't feel right 100 percent. I was struggling and did some little mistakes, but in the end the gap to the guy in front (Glock) was too big, so I don't know how they can refill their car and still do these fast laptimes, so we are wondering every time.

"With low fuel configuration we are always pretty close - only four tenths behind the top teams, but then obviously when you fill it up you see how good a car could be."

The 21-year-old Vettel has finished in the top six in each of his last four outings. Turning his attention to the race, he expects a tough afternoon in the cockpit.

"It will be a long race, 67 laps," he said. "I think it should be dry so it will be a tough race especially for the car, especially for the tyres so I think that will be the key success to survive ... keep the tyres in good shape. I hope we have a good strategy and then we see tomorrow - it will be a long and difficult race."

03:52 Polesitter Lewis Hamilton wanders up the pit lane, wearing his overalls and a McLaren jacket. Conditions at Fuji are notably cooler than earlier in the weekend.

03:55 In five minutes' time the pitlane will open to allow the drivers out onto the circuit, for their reconaissance laps to the grid.

03:59 Sweatshirts and jackets are the clothing of choice in the grandstands and general admission areas, as the light breeze and continuing overcast skies make 16 degrees Celsius feel very chilly around the speedway.

04:01 Kazuki Nakajima is one of the first to come out onto the track in the Wiliams. The crowd favourite is on his lap to the grid.

04:01 Most drivers practice a start as they reach the end of the pit lane.

04:03 Front row men Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen make their way around the circuit for their single lap to the grid.

04:04 Official weather forecast: No rain expected during the race.

04:06 Felipe Massa is similarly on his way towards the grid with a set of hard tyres bolted on his car.

04:06 The track temperature is 21 Celsius as the cool 16 degree air temperature and overcast skies prevent the asphalt from warming further.

A 2.6 metre per second breeze is blowing as a head wind on the long straight.

04:15 The pits are now closed as the tension builds on the grid with 15 minutes to go before the formation lap.

04:15 On the grid, Kimi Raikkonen is talking to Mark Arnell, as the final rounds of pre-race interviews take place.

The crowd is packed to capacity around the speedway, as the fervent Japanese crowd look ahead to a titanic battle in the race.

04:16 Acclaimed soprano opera singer Hiroko Haneda sings the Japanese national anthem from atop the podium, where today's race winner will receive their trophy in around two hours' time.

04:20 The drivers begin to climb aboard their cars with the cars due to roll off the grid in less than ten minutes.

04:24 The Toyota section of the main grandstand makes for a wonderful sight, with the fans decked out all in red, complete with their own mascots jumping up and down in exultation.

04:25 Five minutes remain before the start of the formation lap for the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway.

04:26 Tyres are set to be a crucial factor today with the cool temperatures likely to cause a lack of grip early in the race for many teams. We may see a variable pace from the cars as they work through the graining phase of the rubber.

The entire allocation of tyres has been decorated in support of the FIA's 'Make Cars Green' environmental campaign, with the sets of Soft compound tyres having one white groove and the remainder green.

04:28 Anthony Hamilton wishes his son good luck and moves away from the grid, leaving Lewis to collect his thoughts ahead of this important 16th round of the world championship.

04:29 The engines fire up on the grid with a minute to go before the formation lap.

04:30 Hamilton is starting on the harder tyre, as is Kimi Raikkonen.

04:30 The formation lap begins, and all 20 cars leave the grid without any problems.

04:31 Felipe Massa appears to be on the softer tyre option, which may give him an advantage off the start.

04:31 Hamilton leads the field through the middle section of the lap as the formation lap continues.

04:32 The field exit the final corner and move towards the grid.

Hamilton and Raikkonen stop at their slots on the front row of the grid.

The field forms up behind them as the world anticipates the start of the race.

We await the lights ...

Lap 1: The five red lights go out and we are racing in Japan!

Lap 1: Raikkonen gets the better start and there is plenty of jostling as the McLarens and Ferraris fight over the first corner.

Lap 1: Barrelling towards the chicane at turn 10 it is Kubica from Alonso and Kovalainen as a late-braking move from Hamilton at the first corner shuffles the pack!

Lap 2: David Coulthard has crashed heavily in the Red Bull and is out of the race. But up front Robert Kubica took advantage of all the mayhem at turn one to lead in the BMW.

Lap 2: It is all action in Japan as Kubica leads from Alonso, Kovalainen, Trulli, Massa and Hamilton after a disastrous first tour for the championship leader.

Lap 2: Kazuki Nakajima comes into the pits at the end of the first lap with the front wing missing from his Williams.

Lap 3: Hamilton and Massa make contact at turn 10!

Lewis spins and is back underway last in the Japanese Grand Prix!

Lap 3: Hamilton pits the McLaren. The team check the car and send him away at the back of the field.

Lap 4: Kazuki Nakajima has rejoined the race following the front wing change, but it is all action up front as the race continues.

The Ferraris and Hamilton were very racy at the first corner on lap one and all outbraked eachother, allowing Kubica and Alonso to nip up the inside and take the top two positions in the race.

It was astounding action in the opening lap.

Lap 5: Robert Kubica leads for BMW by a second from Fernando Alonso. Heikki Kovalainen is third, Jarno Trulli is fourth and Kimi Raikkonen fifth.

Lap 6: Replays show the potentially controversial contact between Hamilton and Massa at the turn ten chicane. Hamilton had a move in progress on the Ferrari, but the Brazilian came back at him and tipped the McLaren into a spin.

Lap 6: Throughout the field the position changes in these opening laps are enormous.

Kubica leads the race from Alonso, with Kovalainen third and Trulli fourth, but further down the order Bourdais is up from 10th to sixth, Piquet is up into ninth and Adrian Sutil has vaulted up the field from 19th to 11th.

Lap 6: Massa runs 7th with Hamilton all the way down to 18th.

Lap 6: Timo Glock pits in the Toyota from 11th place. The team are not ready for the German and it is a long stop.

Timo rejoins after a 13.6 second stop.

Lap 7: Jenson Button is another driver who has had a cracking start, moving into 13th place in the Honda, with his teammate Rubens Barrichello right behind him in 14th position.

Lap 8: Lewis Hamilton is down in 17th position after that early stop following contact with Massa as Timo Glock comes into the pits for the second time.

It is all over for the German and he is out of the race.

Lap 8: Robert Kubica continues to lead in Japan after a dramatic start to the Grand Prix.

Alonso and Kovalainen run second and third, with Jarno Trulli in fourth after starting seventh and the Ferrari of Raikkonen all over the Toyota in the battle for fourth.

Lap 9: Raikkonen makes his move on Trulli into the turn ten chicane. He's through on the Toyota and up to fourth.

Lap 10: Nelson Piquet is in eighth place and has Sebastian Vettel climbing all over the back of him in the Toro Rosso.

Adrian Sutil was up to a sensational tenth, but is retiring from the race with a punctured right rear tyre on the Force India.

He pulls off on the main straight and disconsolately walks back towards the garage.

Lap 10: Felipe Massa has his next target in sight as he looks to profit from Hamilton's terrible start to the race. Massa is chasing down the Toro Rosso of Bourdais in a battle for sixth.

Lap 12: Rubens Barrichello has passed his teammate Jenson Button for what is now 12th place following Sutil's retirement.

Giancarlo Fisichella is the next to surge past Button and into 13th place, with Button 14th and Nico Rosberg directly behind the Briton in 15th place.

Lap 12: Nico Rosberg has now passed Jenson Button for 14th as the Honda driver continues to slip down the field.

Lap 12: Race control message: Incidents involving cars 1, 2 and 22 under investigation by the stewards.

Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton.

Lap 13: Heikki Kovalainen sets the fastest lap of the race as he continues to run third behind Alonso and leader Kubica.

Lap 14: Lewis Hamilton is now 16th, ten seconds behind Jenson Button and closing down on the Honda at the rate of two seconds per lap.

Lap 14: Behind Kovalainen, Kimi Raikkonen is closing in on his compatriot with the top four now almost within four seconds of each other on the road.

Lap 15: Nico Rosberg gets a good tow and attempts to pass Giancarlo Fisichella as they battle over 13th place.

Fisichella protects the inside and brakes very deep into the first corner, and somehow keeps hold of the position. Great defensive driving by the Italian.

The Williams is clearly faster though, and it is only a matter of time before Rosberg will pass him.

Lap 16: Rosberg makes the move stick one lap later at turn one, braking late and passing Fisichella up the inside. That move puts Rosberg into 13th position.

Lap 16: Fernando Alonso is the quickest man of the lead quartet on the last lap as a tight battle at the front builds ahead of the first stops.

Lap 17: Heikki Kovalainen is stopping in the McLaren ...

Lap 17: Nelson Piquet in eighth is on the pace and is comfortably keeping Sebastian Vettel behind him at this stage.

Behind these two there is a huge gap of over 16 seconds back to Mark Webber in tenth place, with a further seven seconds back to Nick Heidfeld in 11th.

Lap 18: Lewis Hamilton has collected a drive through for forcing Raikkonen off the road at the first corner.

Felipe Massa has been handed a drive through penalty for his contact with Lewis Hamilton on the second lap.

Lap 18: Kubica and Raikkonen pit on the same lap, handing the lead to Alonso.

Lap 19: Hamilton pits to serve his drive through from 15th.

Lap 19: Kovalainen pulled off to the side of the track with smoke pouring out from the airbox of the McLaren Mercedes.

Lap 19: Fernando Alonso pits his Renault from the lead, handing the advantage to Trulli's Toyota.

Lap 19: Massa pits for his scheduled stop but he will have to come in again to serve the drive through penalty.

Lap 20: Lewis Hamilton rejoins after serving his drive-through penalty and is in 15th position.

Lap 21: Felipe Massa pits from 11th place in the Ferrari. He is in to serve his driver-through penalty, and he rejoins in 14th position.

Lap 22: Lewis Hamilton in 15th place is now finding himself in the rare position of having to respect blue flags as he slows on the main straight to let the leader Jarno Trulli through to put a lap on him.

Lap 22: Alonso is being told to "sprint like hell" by the Renault team. He has jumped ahead of early leader Kubica at the first stop but the team think Kubica has five extra laps of fuel to use at the second stop.

Lap 23: Trulli pits his Toyota from the lead.

Sebastien Bourdais leads for Toro Rosso and is yet to stop. Nelson Piquet's Renault and Sebastian Vettel are in the same position as they run in the top three.

Lap 23: Giancarlo Fisichella pits from 13th place for the first time this afternoon. The Italian's stop promotes Felipe Massa to 13th and Lewis Hamilton to 14th.

Lap 23: There are problems for the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella and his car is wheeled back into the garage.

Lap 24: Vettel pits his Toro Rosso from third, taking more of the harder tyres. He resumes just ahead of Nick Heidfeld in 8th.

Lap 25: Fernando Alonso is setting a great pace in the Renault. He is pulling away from Robert Kubica's BMW and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari and is once again on for a very strong result.

Lap 25: The closest battle on the circuit at the moment is between Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg. They are fighting over 10th place. Jenson Button is 13 seconds behind that battle in 12th with Felipe Massa two seconds behind Button and closing in on the Honda at the rate of a second per lap.

Lap 26: Nico Rosberg sends a good move up the inside of Rubens Barrichello for 10th place at the first corner.

Lap 26: Bourdais pits his Toro Rosso after leading the Grand Prix.

He resumes between Jarno Trulli and teammate Vettel in seventh.

Lap 27: Nelson Piquet leads for Renault as the Brazilian continues on a long first stint, having started outside the top ten.

Lap 27: Although Rosberg passed Barrichello, the German ran wide completing the move, allowing Barrichello to switchback and retake that tenth place. The battle continues between these two and is very entertaining.

Lap 29: Jenson Button is still 12th, but Felipe Massa has now caught the Hionda and a battle is developing between them.

A further ten seconds down the road, Lewis Hamilton is catching both of them in 14th position.

Lap 29: Heikki Kovalainen is suggesting to reporters that he had an engine failure to put him out of the race, a rare problem for the team.

Lap 29: Piquet pits his Renault from the lead.

He goes wheel-to-wheel with Bourdais on the run out of the pits, holding the position to resume sixth.

Lap 30: Hamilton takes a full 1.6 seconds out of the gap to the Button versus Massa battle on the last lap, and brings the gap down to just seven seconds.

Lap 30: Fernando Alonso leads the Japanese Grand Prix by 7.2 seconds over Robert Kubica.

Kimi Raikkonen runs third for Ferrari, 11.9 seconds behind the leader.

Lap 31: Felipe Massa and Jenson Button are embroiled in a ding-dong fight over 12th, but the Brazilian finally makes it through, passing up the inside into turn one.

Massa's next target is Rubens Barrichello in 11th, 11 seconds ahead.

Lap 31: Mark Webber runs fourth for Red Bull but has yet to stop.

Lap 32: In the first round of pitstops Renault did a great job to get Nelson Piquet up a place ahead of Sebastien Bourdais.

The Brazilian runs sixth with Bourdais seventh and his teammate Sebastian Vettel eighth.

Lap 33: Fernando Alonso continues to set the pace from the front of the field and looks very well placed to score another sensational win for Renault.

Lap 34: Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton continue their charge towards the points as they recover from setbacks in the first half of the race.

Massa in 12th is now within eight seconds of Rubens Barrichello, but behind him Lewis Hamilton is also flying and has almost caught Jenson Button as they battle for 13th place.

Lap 35: Lewis Hamilton passes Jenson Button for 13th on the start-finish straight.

There are now no cars separating the championship contenders, and the gap between them is eight seconds.

Lap 36: Hamilton - now in clear space, immeditaly takes three-quarters of a second out of Felipe Massa.

The gap between them is now 7.5 seconds.

Lap 36: Mark Webber pits from fourth on a one-stop strategy, having started down the field.

He takes the softer tyre and fuel to the finish, rejoining tenth behind some of the other one stoppers - Heidfeld and Rosberg.

Lap 38: Fernando Alonso continues to lead in another strong performance from the double world champion. He has a margin of over ten seconds from Robert Kubica.

Lap 38: Felipe Massa is speeding up, now knowing that Hamilton is catching him. In the last two laps the Ferrari driver has edged out the gap to 8.5 seconds, as Kazuki Nakajima pits for the second time in the race.

Lap 39: Jenson Button comes in for his second stop from 14th place. He rejoins in the same position.

Lap 40: Rubens Barrichello comes into the pits from 11th place. This promotes Felipe Massa into that place, and Hamilton up to 12th.

Lap 42: Nick Heidfeld pits from eighth for his single stop, taking the softer tyre and fuel to the flag.

Lap 43: Mark Webber rejoined from his stop in 10th place, and immediately had the recovering Massa on his tail.

Massa quickly sets about the Red Bull driver and passes him on the main straight for that tenth position, which immediately becomes ninth with Heidfeld rejoining the fray.

Lap 43: Lewis Hamilton pits the McLaren from 12th on the road. It is his final stop after a lengthy run on the harder tyre. He pitted in the early laps for new tyres after the contact with Massa on lap two.

Lap 43: Nico Rosberg comes in for his one and only stop from eighth place.

Lap 44: Fernando Alonso pits the Renault from the lead. It is a clean stop and he is away with the softer tyres.

Lap 44: Lewis Hamilton overtakes Rubens Barrichello for 12th place, as the Honda driver rejoined from his pitstop.

Lap 44: Alonso rejoins in heavy traffic in sixth, around the recently concluded battle between Hamilton and Barrichello.

Lap 45: Robert Kubica takes the lead but reports on the radio that he has both understeer and a lack of traction in the BMW.

Kimi Raikkonen is beginning to edge closer to the Pole and is now 4.4 seconds behind.

Lap 46: It is a new fastest lap of the race for Kimi Raikkonen of 1:19.076 as he sniffs the opportunity to take Kubica's place at the final stops.

Lap 46: The order in the midfield is now as follows:

Felipe Massa is now in the points in eighth following the recent stops for those who were ahead of him. Mark Webber is now ninth, Nick Heidfeld is tenth, Nico Rosberg is 11th and Lewis Hamilton is almost 22 seconds behind Rosberg in 12th place.

Lap 47: Kubica pits the BMW, handing the lead to Raikkonen for now.

Alonso surges by on the pit straight and remains in front of the BMW.

Lap 47: Fernando Alonso dives past Lewis Hamilton as he puts a lap on his former teammate.

Lap 48: Kimi Raikkonen continues to push as he battles to leapfrog Kubica. He encounters Rosberg's Williams as the Ferrari crew get ready for a stop.

Lap 49: Raikkonen pits the Ferrari. Has his surge of pace been enough to take Kubica?

He is down and away ...

Lap 49: Kubica just holds his position, with Raikkonen now on his gearbox.

Lap 49: Felipe Massa is on the move again and sets his personal best lap of the race - a 1:19.265. He is less than 20 seconds behind Robert Kubica, but is due to stop soon and will drop out of the points.

Lap 50: Massa sets a new fastest lap of the race on his next lap - 1:19.014. He has a gap of 16.7 seconds to Mark Webber in ninth.

Lap 51: Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet and Sebastien Bourdais run in the top three but all have a second stop to make.

Lap 51: 1:18.963 for Massa is another new fastest lap of the race and the Brazilian is on fire ahead of his final stop. He now has over 18 seconds gap to Webber in ninth.

Massa sets another consecutive fastest lap with a 1:18.893.

Lap 51: Trulli pits, taking his soft tyres and fuel to the flag.

Bourdais also pits and comes out of the pits in the path of Massa ... who makes contact with the Toro Rosso!

Lap 52: Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen are now right together in an excellent battle for what will be second in the race.

Lap 53: Massa spins and loses around five seconds following that incident, wiping out the set of fastest laps that he had just clocked.

Lap 53: Piquet pits his Renault, handing the lead to teammate Alonso as all eyes are on the scrap between Kubica and Raikkonen.

Lap 54: Massa is setting fastest sector times again but loses more time later in the lap.

The Ferrari crew are out in the pitlane ready for Massa's final stop.

Lap 54: Felipe Massa pits from eighth, rejoining with hard tyres on the Ferrari.

Lap 55: Fernando Alonso leads for Renault after the final stops by 11.4 seconds over a sensational battle between Kubica and Raikkonen for second.

The pair battle spectacularly as Raikkonen takes advantage of the Ferrari's speed on the long straight. Robert holds him off ... for now.

Lap 55: Massa is now tenth following his pitstop.

Lap 55: Kubica defends the inside once again, holding off Raikkonen's advances for another lap.

Lap 56: Race control message: Incident involving cars 2 and 14 will be investigated after the race.

The Felipe Massa, Sebastien Bourdais clash.

Lap 56: Nelson Piquet runs fourth in the other Renault and is catching the battle between Kubica and Raikkonen. This is a strong drive from the young Brazilian.

Lap 57: Jarno Trulli is fifth, Sebastien Bourdais six with teammate Vettel seventh and Mark Webber leading the one-stoppers to the final point in eighth.

Lap 58: With all the stops now complete, Felipe Massa is in tenth position and 12 seconds away from the points. The Brazilian is flying again though, setting another new fastest lap of the race - 1:18.426, stunning pace from the Ferrari driver.

Lewis Hamilton is in 12th place, but is 31 seconds away from the points, and looks unlikely to add to his points tally today.

Lap 58: Kubica, Raikkonen and Piquet are now right together in an amazing three-way fight for second in the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lap 58: With ten laps to go, Fernando Alonso leads by a comfortable 13.2 seconds over the scrap for second.

Lap 59: Massa continues to set laps in the 1:18s bracket, and he is just under two seconds behind Nick Heidfled who is ninth.

Lap 59: The Renault team tell Nelson Piquet they think he is a second per lap faster than Kimi Raikkonen and encourage their young charge to see what he can do.

Lap 60: Massa crosses the line just 0.6 seconds behind Nick Heidfeld, The battle is now joined for ninth place.

Lap 61: The battle for second has gone off the boil a little in the last couple of laps, with the gap between each car spreading out to over a second.

Lap 61: It's like taking candy from a baby as Felipe Massa surges past Nick Heidfeld for ninth place on the main straight.

The next target for the Brazilian is Mark Webber in eighth place. The Australian is seven seconds up the road with just over seven laps remaining.

Lap 61: Nelson Piquet has fallen over five seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen after a poor lap from the Renault.

Lap 63: The one-stopping Webber has been running on the same set of tyres for many laps, and he is losing grip, and laptime.

Massa is catching the Red Bull at almost two seconds per lap, and the gap between them is just 3.9 seconds.

Lap 63: The top four now look settled as the softer tyre gives the drivers plenty of trouble as they degrade.

Fernando Alonso leads into the last five laps by over 11 seconds.

Lap 64: Kimi Raikkonen is holding at two seconds behind Robert Kubica, who battled bravely to hold off the Ferrari after the final pit stops.

Lap 64: Massa closes the gap to eighth-placed Webber to 0.9 seconds, and is continuing to haul in the Red Bull with four laps to go.

Lap 65: Felipe Massa is now all over the back of Webber's RB4, and the Australian has little defence left to fight the Brazilian.

Lap 66: Massa gets in the slipstream of Webber down the main straight. Mark takes to the inside, but Massa goes further down the inside, slicing down a very narrow gap towards turn one. He makes the move stick and Massa is back into the points, potentially cutting Lewis Hamilton's points lead to six at the end of the race.

Lap 67: Alonso starts his final lap, en route to his 21st Grand Prix win.

Lap 67: Lewis Hamilton sets his personal best lap of the race, but the championship leader will not score this afternoon.

06:03 Fernando Alonso wins again for Renault!

Following his triumph in Singapore two weeks ago, Alonso cut through the chaos in the opening laps and surged by early leader Kubica at the first stop.

The Spaniard set an impressive pace at the front and is the deserving winner of a dramatic race in Japan.

06:04 Robert Kubica crosses the line to claim second place and eight points, with Kimi Raikkonen third for Ferrari.

06:04 Nelson Piquet finishes fourth after an impressive drive in the other Renault.

06:05 Fernando and the Renault team are jubilant on the radio after a sensational drive from Alonso.

06:06 Jarno Trulli takes fifth, scoring points at home for Toyota, with Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel finishing an excellent sixth and seventh for Toro Rosso - both of them within 40 seconds of the race winner Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa winds up eighth and nets one point, to cut the gap between himself and Lewis Hamilton in the championship race to six with two races remaining.

06:08 Mark Webber was ninth, Nick Heidfeld tenth, Nico Rosberg 11th and Lewis Hamilton 12th. Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button brought their Hondas home in 13th and 14th positions, with Kazuki Nakajima the only other classified finisher in 16th place.

06:09 Robert Kubica's strong second moves him to within 12 points of the championship lead and he remains in with a chance of the crown with two races to go.

With both McLarens failing to score, Ferrari take a six point lead in the constructors' championship.

06:10 Alonso steps out onto the podium to rapturous applause. The Spanish national anthem is played for the winner.

06:10 Retirements in the Japanese Grand Prix:

Giancarlo Fisichella retired in the pits.
Heikki Kovalainen suffered a suspected engine failure when third.
Adrian Sutil made a stunning start but retired with a right rear puncture.
Timo Glock retired in the pits after hitting debris.
David Coulthard crashed heavily on the opening lap but was unhurt.

06:12 Fernando Alonso takes his prize as the winner in Japan after a fantastic drive from the double world champion.

06:12 Robert Kubica is handed his award for second place in today's race. The Pole has hauled himself right back into the championship fight with a strong drive.

06:12 Kimi Raikkonen accepts the trophy for third place. The Finn did all he could this afternoon, but could not match the pace of Alonso and Kubica.

06:14 The champagne sprays in Japan as the paddock begins to reflect on a dramatic Grand Prix.

06:17 The race report is now available:

Alonso takes second win in a row at Fuji

06:19 The stewards are set to investigate Felipe Massa and Sebastien Bourdais after the pair clashed on lap 51 as the Toro Rosso exited the pits.

Stick with autosport.com for further developments on this story.

"You can always look back and wish you did something but you know I made a mistake (the start) and I paid for it, so this sort of thing happens, you've just got to keep your head up and keep going.

"Well, we both got the same penalty but I didn't hit anyone, but he (Massa) did, I guess that's just the name of the game."
Lewis Hamilton speaking to British broadcaster ITV

06:30 Three into one doesn't work.

The Japanese Grand Prix was shaped immediately at the start, as Kimi Raikkonen got a great launch, with polesitter Lewis Hamilton not enjoying the best of getaways. Heikki Kovalainen was also challenging at the first corner, and as they were all watching each other trying to gain track position, a late braking move from Hamilton saw them all sail straight on to the outside of the first corner. Felipe Massa had been playing it safe, minding his own business, but was on the outside and also went straight on. All four of them wide at the first corner - it was an astounding sight.

Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso let the others have their fun, sneaking up the inside and taking first and second place. Meantime the chaos among the big four continued, with Hamilton and Massa colliding as they battled at turn 10 - an incident that compromised both their afternoons. Heikki Kovalainen recovered well and was looking good for a podium, but then he suddenly slowed, succumbing to suspected engine failure.

So, the way was left clear for Alonso and Kubica to fight over first, with Raikkonen doing his best to join in the battle. In the end Alonso was too strong for either of them, and drove magnificently to claim his second win on the trot, with Kubica second, scoring a valuable eight points in the championship race, and Raikkonen third.

Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton had terrible afternoons, but the gap between them is down to six points with Massa scoring the final point for an eighth place finish.

This was the Japanese Grand Prix weekend on autosport.com Live. We hope you have enjoyed the coverage this weekend, and don't forget that there is another event next weekend as the title race moves on to Shanghai for the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix.

  OVERVIEW JAPANESE GRAND PRIX  
Race Length: 67 laps
 View official live timing
  CURRENT WEATHER
Overcast High Temp: 16°C / 61°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
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com'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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