Sebastian Vettel achieved his tenth pole position of the 2010 season for Red Bull Racing at Abu Dhabi, while team-mate Mark Webber will face a difficult job on Sunday with the fifth quickest time in qualifying.
The Red Bull Racing pair elected to do just a single run in Q3, with the McLarens having already set times in the mid one minute, 39 seconds a few moments earlier.
Vettel immediately took provisional pole followed by another impressive lap (one minute, 39.394 seconds) to take the honours. As for Webber, the Australian was struggling to keep pace compared to his team-mate and remained behind the times the McLarens set on their first runs.
When the McLarens and Ferraris came back out for one final run at the end of Q3, Lewis Hamilton claimed his place on the front row alongside Vettel, seconds before Fernando Alonso pipped Jenson Button to head row two.
Webber was left in fifth spot, and will start the season finale alongside Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
As for Hamilton, the McLaren driver survived an earlier scare in Q2 when he had yet to set a decent time in the final minutes of the session.
Having already out-braked himself into Turn 8, which ruined his lap, Lewis was searching for a gap in the traffic to set his proper qualifying run. But in doing so, he appeared to delay Massa into the chicane and Hamilton had to demolish a corner bollard to avoid contact with the Ferrari. Both made it through into the top ten shootout but the race stewards will take a look into the incident.
Jenson Button complained of a “massive vibration” in his McLaren at the beginning of Q1, but after pitting for treatment to his brakes he found his pace and was able to record the second quickest time in Q2.
For the Silver Arrows, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg opted to running the harder compound Bridgestone tyre. This tactic worked for the Mercedes pair with Rosberg in particular up in second position in Q1 and third in Q2. But when it matters in Q3, the Germans decided to do one run that resulted in Schumacher in eighth and Rosberg ninth.
Rubens Barrichello put Williams into seventh position ahead of the Silver Arrows, while Renault’s Vitaly Petrov completed the top ten.
His Renault team-mate, Robert Kubica ended his run of making it through to Q3 in every race this season. The Polish driver was unable to match Petrov’s split times and his scrappy last-gasp effort fell more than a tenth short.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi will start alongside Kubica in P11, with Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld on row seven. Brazil pole-sitter Nico Hulkenberg was just P15 for Williams, with Vitantonio Liuzzi and Jaime Alguersuari concluding the Q2 runners.
At the back, Jarno Trulli outqualified Lotus team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, with Timo Glock beating Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna ahead of Christian Klien.
So the stage is set for an exciting end to this intense 2010 Formula One World Championship. The grid order points to a fascinating battle for the drivers’ title on Sunday with Alonso surrounded by McLarens, and Webber facing a mountain to climb to keep the Ferrari driver from the title. Let battle commence!
Qualifying times from Abu Dhabi:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.394s
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.425s
3. Alonso Ferrari 1m39.792s
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.823s
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.925s
6. Massa Ferrari 1m40.202s
7. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m40.203s
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1m40.516s
9. Rosberg Mercedes 1m40.589s
10. Petrov Renault 1m40.901s
11. Kubica Renault 1m40.780s
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.783s
13. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1m40.914s
14. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.113s
15. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1m41.418s
16. Liuzzi Force India-Ferrari 1m41.642s
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.738s
18. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.824s
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1m43.516s
20. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1m43.712s
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m44.095s
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1m44.510s
23. Senna Hispania-Cosworth 1m45.085s
24. Klien Hispania-Cosworth 1m45.296s