SUZUKA (AFP) - Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton as one of Formula One's greatest ever drivers after the Briton's record-breaking pole in Japan on Saturday (Oct 7).
"Lewis was untouchable today," gushed Wolff ahead of a potentially title-defining race at Suzuka on Sunday.
"He just built up the performance level lap by lap and improved with every run. It was a day that shows why he is one of the best of all time."
Hamilton leads Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 34 points with five races left this season and will start alongside the German on the front row.
And after powering to his first-ever Suzuka pole and his 10th of the year, a buzzing Hamilton promised to beat his title rival to the first corner.
"We've put ourselves in the best fighting position," said Hamilton after smashing the previous record set by Michael Schumacher in 2006 by 1.7 seconds.
"Obviously, it's me and Sebastian on the front row - I wouldn't want it any other way.
"He won't be any more aggressive than I am," insisted Hamilton, who has racked up a record 71 Formula One poles.
"I've got eight metres (advantage), I need to make sure I keep the eight metres that I have and have a good start."
Vettel, promoted to the front row because of a five-place grid penalty picked up by Valtteri Bottas for switching his gearbox, realistically needs a victory on Sunday to keep his title hopes alive.
He also has most to lose from a rush of blood at a first corner infamous for a collision between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost that secured the Brazilian's second world title in 1990.
"It's going to be a different view (from the front)," said Hamilton, denied a fourth world championship last year by former Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.
"I've never really had this view here. I hope I can capitalise on it."
Rosberg, who retired after winning the title, predicted the F1 crown was Hamilton's to lose.
"At the moment everything is in his favour," said Hamilton's erstwhile bitter rival.
"He's got the momentum, he's got the form, he's got the car, he's got everything going his way.
"But it can change so quickly," added Rosberg after a stint in the commentary box.
"Lewis has had some good starts recently so that should give him confidence but it's always an adrenalin moment because he knows it can decide the race."
Rosberg added: "Lewis is always going to be very difficult to beat. Fortunately I managed to do it a couple of times but his pure speed is just immense." Wolff, meanwhile, believes Mercedes have got the balance right after being off pace in Malaysia last weekend, where Red Bull's Max Verstappen claimed victory.
"The swings of performance we've seen this season prove that this is a complicated science and that small factors make a big difference to the final result," he said.
"Today's result brings us another piece of the puzzle to help our understanding."