Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth pole position of the season Saturday in qualifying for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.
The McLaren-Mercedes driver dominated the session on the new 5.554-kilometre Yas Marina Circuit, registering a time of 1 minute 40.948 seconds to secure the 17th pole of his career.
'It's never easy but it was definitely as fun as it looked,' said Hamilton, who continued his strong finish to the season with a fourth top spot in the last seven races.
'The car was the best it's been all year.'
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will start alongside Hamilton on the front row after clocking a lap 0.667 seconds slower than the 2008 champion. Vettel's teammate Mark Webber starts from third, followed by Rubens Barrichello and newly-crowned world champion Jenson Button.
'We are a little bit surprised by the gap,' admitted the German Vettel. 'I think we do have a good race pace, the car is getting better through the distance.'
Although Button claimed the drivers' title with a fifth-place finish at the Brazil GP two weeks ago and his Brawn GP team have secured the constructors' crown, the race for second place is still very much alive at the season-ender in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel currently holds the advantage with 74 points, just two ahead of Button's teammate Barrichello.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen managed only 11th while Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen had to be satisfied with 13th after suffering engine transmission problems.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso had a disappointing final qualifying session for Renault ahead of his move to Ferrari for next season and will start down in 16th place after being eliminated in the first round.
All eyes will now turn to Sunday's race, which for the first time in F1 history will start in daylight and be completed as the sun sets.
Temperatures are expected to hit 35 degrees Celsius at the Yas Marina track, where construction only began in February 2007.
The spectacular circuit, which has a tunnel as part of its pit- lane exit and a track that passes under the Yas Hotel, has impressed all the drivers this weekend, not least Hamilton.
'The place is just stunning. It's mind-blowing what they have been able to create here,' he said.
"In Q3 I had massive vibrations. Hopefully we can solve it by the race," added Button.
|7||5||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:40.520||1:40.545||1:41.992||25|
|8||6||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:40.558||1:40.635||1:42.343||24|
|17||21||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.701||10|
|18||20||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.863||10|