Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning lap in the closing seconds of qualifying to secure pole position for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The McLaren Mercedes man went into qualifying as one of the hot tips for pole and didn't disappoint as he led the way through each of the three segments of the session and blitzed his way to pole by well over half a second.
Hamilton became the first man to dip below the 1min 40secs marker during the opening segment of the session and was comfortably quicker than anyone else before repeating the feat in the sector segment when the cars were running with low fuel, with Sebastian Vettel also getting into the 1min 39s.
The outgoing champion saw his first run for pole on Q3 ruined by a mistake entering the marina section of the circuit that saw him run wide, but the Briton regrouped to then put his car on provisional pole with a lap of 1min 41.773secs. As the chequered flag flew, Mark Webber went quicker for Red Bull before being demoted by team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but Hamilton had timed his lap to perfection to ensure he was the final man to set a time.
With a target of 1min 41.615secs to beat, Hamilton crossed the line to take pole by nearly seven-tenths of a second – although it remains to be seen how much fuel was onboard the respective cars when the FIA reveals the car weights later this evening.
Regardless of fuel though, it marked a stunning performance from Hamilton as he picked up his fourth pole of the season to bounce back from his poor showing in qualifying at Interlagos, while Red Bull pair Vettel and Webber were left to settle for second and third.
Rubens Barrichello, looking to steal second in the standings back from Vettel, will start directly behind his rival on the grid after posting the fourth quickest time while newly crowned champion Jenson Button – who had been expected to fight Hamilton for pole – had to settle for fifth, although he was reporting a vibration under braking at the conclusion of the session. Jarno Trulli was sixth ahead of BMW pair Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, while Nico Rosberg and Sebastien Buemi completed the top ten.
The second segment of qualifying had seen two big names fall, as both Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen failed to make it into the top-ten shootout. Raikkonen narrowly missed out on making it through as he posted the eleventh quickest time, while Kovalainen suffered the disappointment of a transmission fault, which forced him to stop on track. As a result, the Finn will start down in 13th place, behind Kamui Kobayashi's Toyota and ahead of Kazuki Nakajima and Jaime Alguersuari.
After a below par performance in Friday practice, qualifying provided further disappointment for Renault as both Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean fell at the first hurdle. In his final race for the team, Alonso could only manage the 16th quickest time while his rookie team-mate will start on the back row of the grid – quicker only than Giancarlo Fisichella after another tough session for the Italian.
The session also resulted in huge disappointment for Force India as Tonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil could only qualify down in 17th and 18th on the grid.
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