Sebastian Vettel took his fourteenth pole position of the season at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The Red Bull driver pulled a sensational effort to set a lap of 1:38.481, pushing one tenth ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in the final moments.
Indeed, it looked as if Hamilton would have the advantage as the trio entered into their final Q3 runs, with the Briton initially ahead of Vettel.
This wasn’t to last. Despite improvements for both silver and red machines, Vettel’s sculpted the perfect lap, dragging every ounce of speed from his RB7 to snatch the top spot.
For the Red Bull man, this pole equalled record number of poles set in a season, originally posted by Nigel Mansell in 1992.
Mark Webber could only secure 4th in his Red Bull, comfortably ahead of both Ferrari’s, led by the always quick Fernando Alonso.
Felipe Massa came close to losing his third row place to the younger Mercedes flyer, Nico Rosberg – the gap between Massa and Rosberg, a mere 0.078 seconds.
Michael Schumacher did just enough to garner 8th ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil, while Paul di Resta never set a timed lap in the final part of qualifying.
Sauber’s Sergio Perez will line-up 11th for today’s race, with Renault’s Vitaly Petrov alongside. The Mexican missed out on Q3 by nearly three-tenths – a gap that cover the five drivers behind him.
Sebastien Buemi placed his Toro Rosso 13th, despite making a mistake on his final run. The Swiss racer finished two spots ahead of teammate Jaime Alguersuari, while the second Renault of Bruno Senna split the Red Bull junior squad.
A disappointing run saw Kamui Kobayashi claim 16th spot, while the last driver in Q2 – Pastor Maldonado – takes a grid penalty for using a 9th engine, dropping the Venezuelan to last on the grid.
The day was made much worse for Williams with Rubens Barrichello garage-bound throughout Q1. In what is looking like his penultimate race weekend, the Brazilian suffered an oil leak in the earlier practice – an issue not fully fixed come qualifying.
There were no surprises ahead of the Williams pair. Heikki Kovalainen leads an all-row nine Lotus pairing, with Virgin’s Timo Glock starting 19th, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (HRT).
On the eleventh row, Jerome d’Ambrosio (Virgin) beat Vitantonio Liuzzi (HRT) to 21st position.
Qualifying did see a brief stoppage during Q2, following some bollard destruction at turn eight. The bollard – thwacked to pieces by an errant driver – was dragged onto the racing line, prompting race control to have it removed.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.481s 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.622s + 0.141 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.631s + 0.150 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m38.858s + 0.377 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.058s + 0.577 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.695s + 1.214 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.773s + 1.292 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m40.662s + 2.181 9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m40.768s + 2.287 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes Q2 cut-off time: 1m40.554s Gap ** 11. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.874s + 2.440 12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m40.919s + 2.485 13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.009s + 2.575 14. Bruno Senna Renault 1m41.079s + 2.645 15. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.162s + 2.728 16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.240s + 2.806 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m41.760s + 3.326 Q1 cut-off time: 1m42.605s Gap * 18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m42.979s + 3.197 19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m43.884s + 4.102 20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m44.515s + 4.733 21. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m44.641s + 4.859 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m44.699s + 4.917 23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m45.159s + 5.377 24. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosoworth no time 107% time: 1m46.766s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2