Hamilton on pole, Massa fifth
The Briton, who leads the standings by seven points from Massa with three races remaining, starts ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the front row in Fuji after a late charge in Saturday’s qualifying.
“The title is obviously within my grasp,” Hamilton said after securing his sixth pole of the year and 12th of his 33 race career.
“We’re in a perfect position to score as many points as we can. I just have to keep the car on the road and bring it home.”
Hamilton won a wet race at Fuji from pole position in his rookie season last year to open a 12-point lead over then team-mate Alonso only to blow his chance in the final two races in China and Brazil.
Raikkonen clawed his way back from 17 points behind to win the championship by a single point but the Finn’s hopes of a repeat have been wrecked by a run of four races without a win.
“I’m not thinking about the world championship,” said Raikkonen, 27 points behind Hamilton and only mathematically still in the contest.
“I don’t have much to lose. We want to win both championships. It’s not going to be easy against the McLarens but if we can take maximum points that would be nice,” added the Finn, back on the front row for the first time since June.
McLaren lead Ferrari by one point in the constructors’ championship.
Hamilton, who increased his championship lead over Massa after finishing third in Singapore while the Brazilian failed to score in the night race after a botched pitstop, is bidding to become Formula One’s youngest world champion at 23.
Massa can become the first Brazilian to win the title since the late Ayrton Senna in 1991.
However, he now needs a large slice of luck after losing two places in the dying moments of Saturday’s final qualifying session when Kovalainen and Alonso lapped faster.
Massa will start alongside BMW-Sauber‘s Robert Kubica, third in the championship but 20 points behind Hamilton, with the Toyotas of Italian Jarno Trulli and Germany’s Timo Glock behind on the fourth row.