Hamilton to start from pole in China

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/l/lewishamilton.jpg' class='caption'> McLaren's Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday, and a prime opportunity to secure the title.

Updated: October 18, 2008 12:32 IST
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Shanghai, China:

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton wants his rivals to play fair in Sunday's Chinese Formula One Grand Prix and not try to sabotage his title bid.

McLaren's Hamilton secured pole position on Saturday, and a prime opportunity to secure the title here. Should he finish the race on the podium and score six points more than Ferrari's Felipe Massa, he will be the 2008 champion.

However, his key rivals surround him on the grid. Ferrari teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Massa will start from second and third on the grid.

Renault's Fernando Alonso, who has declared he will do whatever he can to help Massa win the title, will start from fourth.

That sets the stage for a nerve-jangling sprint to the first corner, in which all drivers will be mindful of the chaos of the opening turn at last week's Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton is putting faith in his rivals not to block him or trigger a collision.

"Kimi is a world champion, he is not a stupid guy," Hamilton said. "I am sure he wants to win just as much as everyone else does. I have every confidence he will be sensible.

"I have nothing to worry about. (Alonso) is a two-time world champion, he is a sensible guy. Felipe has plenty of experience, so I have to trust they are both respectable people and will fight fair."

Hamilton carries into the race the memory of Japan, where his interference at the first corner resulted in a pit drive-through penalty and a finish outside the points.

"I have to take the last race into account," Hamilton said. "I will put that into my memory bank and make sure I don't make the same mistake again.

"It will be hard to beat (Raikkonen) off the start, but we are in a position to at least attack. If he is ahead of me it doesn't really matter. As long as Felipe is behind me, that's positive."

The Ferraris had been off Hamilton's pace all through the race weekend, but were putting faith in their proven ability to compensate for second-best in qualifying with strong race performance.

"Tomorrow things could change as the car has shown it is very good over a long run," Massa said.

"We will have to attack to make up positions and we believe we have a good race strategy.

"Sure, our competitors went well and will be very competitive _ let's hope we are more competitive than they are."

Hamilton came into last year's Chinese Grand Prix with a chance to clinch the world title, but instead slid out of the race and ultimately surrendered the championship to Raikkonen.

This year he was trying not to think of the China race as being decisive, nor let his mind stray to the chance of being world champion.

"I'm not treating tomorrow as the day we have to do everything, we just have to take it easy and try to score as many points as we can," Hamilton said.

"I can't think of it. However exciting, however amazing it could be, it's never done until it's done.

"Tomorrow I am not approaching it as 'we can win the world championship.' We can't lose the world championship tomorrow, but we can definitely take another step toward the world championship."

Light rain is forecast for Sunday, and could provide a headache for all teams because every practice session and qualifying had been on a dry track, providing no opportunity to test wet settings.

BMW's Robert Kubica, who still has an outside shot at the title with a 12-point deficit to Hamilton, recorded his worst qualifying performance of the season and will start from 11th.

The Polish driver complained of understeer and poor balance, but his teammate Nick Heidfeld did better than his usual lackluster qualifying performance and will start from sixth.

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, who turns 27 on Sunday, will start fifth.

Red Bull's Mark Webber was sixth quickest Saturday but was demoted 10 places on the grid after his engine blew in morning practice and he was forced to replace it.

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