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Hamilton claims pole position for Japanese Grand Prix

October 6, 2018
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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car chased by his teammate Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland during the third practice session for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Championship leader Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, leading a 1-2 finish for Mercedes and taking a step closer to securing his fifth Formula One championship.

With rain threatening, Hamilton clocked a lap of 1 minute, 27.760 seconds to edge teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.299 seconds. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was third.

Mercedes read the weather conditions perfectly, ensuring that both drivers were able to record their best laps early in the third qualifying before the rain increased to secure their fifth consecutive one-two in qualifying at Suzuka.

The timing of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying run was not as fortunate as he hit a wet patch and spun off the course late in the session qualifying to finish ninth, further damaging his slim chances of catching Hamilton in the championship race.

With five races to go, Hamilton leads Vettel by 50 points in the standings.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who couldn’t set a time because of a loss of power.

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