Faultless Hamilton wins in Japan downpour

'We can tick off driving in the rain!' Rookie takes 12-point championship lead as Alonso crashes out
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The Independent Online

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton won an action-packed Japanese Grand Prix and took a massive step towards becoming the first rookie to win the Formula One driver's world championship after closest rival Fernando Alonso failed to finish at a sodden Fuji Speedway.

The 22-year-old overcame terrible conditions, two safety car periods and all manner of incidents with a mature drive to claim his fourth win of the season and open up a 12-point lead over his team-mate at the top of the drivers' standings with just two races to go. He embarked on his victory lap with a jubilant radio message from the pit crew that he could 'tick off' driving in the rain.

Alonso saw his title chances all but washed away after losing control of his McLaren on lap 42 and crashing into the safety barrier, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen kept his slim hopes alive by finishing third.

Hamilton said in an ITV interview: "It was the longest race of my life, it went on and on.

"The last few laps the team told me to slow down and I took it really easy at the end as it was so easy to aquaplane the car off the track."

Hamilton added: "It was a very, very eventful race. There were so many times when it must have gone through all the drivers' heads that we should have stopped. We had the safety car at the beginning. After that I got off to a decent start and didn't feel any pressure, and could have pushed more."

BMW driver Robert Kubica nudged Hamilton when attempting to overtake, prompting the 22-year-old to say: "I was very fortunate to still finish,. I'm not taking the blame for it. I couldn't see him and maybe he was a bit far behind to make the move.

"It wasn't really a risk he needed to take."

McLaren chief Ron Dennis, who has had a frequently difficult time this season trying to prevent all-out war between Hamilton and Alonso, offered praise to both his drivers.

"Lewis just did what he had to do when he had to do it," he added on ITV1.

"Fernando did a very good job, he was really keeping it together and he's very disappointed. There's still along way to go but it's going very well."

Leading Final Positions after Race (67 Laps): 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 2hrs 00mins 34.579secs, 2 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Renault 2:00:42.95, 3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 2:00:44.057, 4 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 2:00:54.876, 5 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 2:01:13.345, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 2:01:23.621, 7 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 2:01:23.834, 8 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Scuderia Toro Rosso 2:01:30.241, 9 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Spyker 2:01:34.679, 10 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 2:02:02.879, 11 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda at 1 Lap, 12 Sakon Yamamoto (Jpn) Spyker at 1 Lap, 13 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota at 1 Lap, 14 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber at 2 Laps, 15 Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri at 2 Laps

Not classified: 16 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 55 Laps completed, 17 Anthony Davidson (Gbr) Super Aguri 54 Laps completed, 18 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams 49 Laps completed, 19 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Scuderia Toro Rosso 46 Laps completed, 20 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 45 Laps completed, 21 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 41 Laps completed, 22 Alexander Wurz (Aut) Williams 19 Laps completed