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Hamilton wins Japanese Grand Prix

Sep 30, 2007 - 2:02 PM FUJI, Japan (Ticker) - Lewis Hamilton refused to contemplate the prospect of becoming the first rookie Formula One world champion despite a stunning victory in a thrilling Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday morning.

The McLaren star opened up a 12-point gap at the top of the standings when he claimed a vital triumph at a drenched Fuji Speedway after closest rival Fernando Alonso had spun off into the safety barrier on lap 42 of 67.

The downcast look on the Spaniard's face said it all as he stood at the side of the track surveying the wreckage of both his car and his dreams of a third consecutive drivers' title.

But Hamilton insisted suggestions he was now home and dry after his team-mate's woe in the wet were far too premature.

"I think at the back of your mind, in the subconscious, you do think about it a little bit, but I think the key for me is just to focus on the next race and just make sure my preparations are right and take it as it comes," he said.

"I think after the next race then you really have to start thinking about it but I don't think it's something you should be doing because you can worry. I hope I finish the next race and do the best job I can. I hope we have the pace again to have the opportunity to win."

The 22-year-old came home ahead of Renault's Heikki Kovalainen with Kimi Raikkonen crossing the line third in his Ferrari to keep alive his outside chance of snatching the title from under the noses of the two McLarens.

The Finn now lies 17 points off the pace, five behind Alonso, and Hamilton did concede that he is in a strong position with two races remaining.

"It's a big boost in terms of confidence," he added. "It's good for me that I've managed to pull out that sort of gap.

"At the Nurburgring I had that similar sort of incident and lost 10 points there, so I'm very fortunate to that I've been able to get those back. But we still have two races left and anything can happen. The key is just to try to keep it on the track. We've got two races so we need to knuckle down. I won't be going partying tonight." The first grand prix at the Fuji Speedway for 30 years began behind a safety car as heavy, persistent rain made racing a dangerous proposition.

And it stayed that way for 19 laps until the all-clear was given and the Hamilton-Alonso rivalry that had simmered off the track was renewed on it.

Hamilton established a comfortable lead over his rival after the restart, and Alonso was the first to pit on lap 27 but came out in the middle of traffic well down the field.

Hamilton dived in a lap later but rejoined in third to open a decent advantage over the Spaniard.

That looked in danger on lap 34, however, as Robert Kubica drove his BMW Sauber into the 22-year-old's McLaren and both cars spun, allowing Kovalainen past.

But Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel hit Alonso on lap 35 and, crucially, damaged his McLaren, which contributed to the double world champion losing control of his car on turn five seven laps later and going out of the race.

The safety car came out again but it was plain sailing for Hamilton until the end of the race as he left Kovalainen behind.

The Finn had to withstand late pressure from countryman Raikkonen to claim his team's first podium of the season, while David Coulthard had a superb afternoon in finishing fourth.

"We made a little bit of a gamble with the car yesterday, hoping it would be dry today, and then this morning it was raining more than yesterday, so things didn't look fantastic at the start of the race," Kovalainen said.

"But you always keep going, you never know what could happen. Our strategy worked out really well today.

"At the end of the race I had a good fight with Kimi. I couldn't see him, my mirrors were steamed up, but I saw my pit board and every lap he was a second closer.

"So I knew at some point he was going to attack and I managed to keep him behind me, so it's fantastic."

Raikkonen admitted his third place probably spells the end of his championship challenge.

"It doesn't look too good right now but there's nothing else we could have done today really," he said.

"We did the best we could. We lost points but there are still two races to go and we're still trying, still pushing, so we'll see what happens."

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