Hamilton takes Pole Position in Japan
Lewis Hamilton boosted his chances of extending his world championship lead at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix by taking pole position in Fuji.
The McLaren driver produced a late flying lap of one minute 18.404 seconds to claim his sixth pole of the season.
But Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, who trails Hamilton by seven points in the title race, endured a disastrous qualifying finishing back in fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen was second for Ferrari ahead of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen.
Also starting ahead of Massa on the grid is Fernando Alonso, a surprise winner for Renault last time out in Singapore, as he continued his run of good form to qualify in fourth.
BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica posted the sixth fastest time ahead of Toyota duo Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. The Toro Rossos of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top 10.
"I'm very happy," said Hamilton, who is three races away from a maiden world title. "The team have done a phenomenal job.
"It was pretty straightforward. The last lap I put all the sectors together and I was able to bring it home.
"We will push forward with the strategy on Sunday. It's going to be a tough race because Kimi is right there but we will take as many points as we can."
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis described Hamilton's 12th career pole as the "best of his life" adding it came at a "critical time".
With both the drivers' and constructors' titles at stake, the Woking-based team are determined to adopt a cautious approach to the title run-in especially after the calamitous close to the 2007 season.
After claiming victory at last year's Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton held a 12-point lead in the title race only to surrender the title to Raikkonen, who at that stage was 17 points adrift.
When asked if he would allow Hamilton to race for victory in Fuji, Dennis said: "We don't want to pass over any victories that might come our way, but who knows?"