Going into the F1 world title decider third in the standings, Sebastian Vettel reckons that he is carrying less pressure than the two men ahead of him, allowing him to convert a tenth pole position into an unexpected success.
The German needs to win the race with current points leader Fernando Alonso fifth or worse, but will start two places ahead of the Spaniard after claiming a record-equalling 15th pole position of the season for Red Bull Racing. With team-mate Mark Webber back in fifth place, the spectre of team orders may also have lessened for Vettel, who could also receive unexpected assistance from a revitalised McLaren team, which put Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button second and fourth in the qualifying order.
With one last chance to beat Hamilton's achievement and become the youngest world champion in F1 history, Vettel insists that a lot rests on the performance of his rivals, easing the expectations placed on him.
"It is always tight when you know you have the car to put the car on the front row, and ideally on pole, but, pressure-wise, as I've said before, we know which position we are in," he explained, "We are not leading this championship, so probably there is more pressure on Fernando and Mark. We'll do our maximum, but we are in a similar position to Lewis - enjoying the drive here and trying to win. [As for] the rest, we will see.
"The main target is to finish the race - that would be a good start - and, obviously, as high up as possible. As you say, it's not dependent on me, so all I can do is maximise our performance. We have to focus on us and then it's up to the others that have to deliver, so we'll take it step-by-step. It is what it is. We knew that before going to Brazil, before coming here, before starting the race here.
"As usual, we'll focus on a good start and then see what happens. I told you on Thursday that it looks tight here, tighter than other places, with Ferrari strong and McLaren very strong. It will be a long race and then, after the race, there are screens around the track and time enough to see where the others have finished and if there is something to celebrate or not."
Vettel, of course, won the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, heading a Red Bull 1-2 after Hamilton retired with brake failure mid-race. Alonso, meanwhile, finished only 14th in his final race for Renault and races this year with a Ferrari team that endured an equally trying first appearance at the Yas Marina circuit.
"I'm looking forward to the race," he admitted, buoyed equally by recent victories in Japan and Brazil, "I like this track - last year, I had a very good experience here, [in qualifying this year], the car was fantastic and I think, in the race, the car is even stronger, so we will see. As Fernando and Lewis have said, it is a long race and anything can happen, so we'll have to go step-by-step. Today, we did the best job we could and we are in front of everyone else. If we make sure we stay there tomorrow, I think we'll do our maximum and then see what happens.
"If I win [the title], I will be very happy but, if I don't, then we will see who else wins it. I'm very happy with the result today. Obviously, Mark struggled a lot in Q3, and I don't know yet what happened to him because I think he was fairly close in Q1 and Q2, but we see how quickly things can change. I think the most important thing, as I said over the last couple of days, is to keep our head down and focus on us. We'll try to do what we can and, [as for] the rest, we will see - or not."