ABU DHABI, Nov 3, 2012 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday as he cruised to pole position for McLaren and set up a Red Bull party-wrecking performance in Sunday's race.
Hamilton's pole was his sixth this year and the 25th of his career on a circuit that he clearly responds to with great elan -- and gives him a perfect opportunity to upset the Red Bull express and end Sebastian Vettel's run of four consecutive wins.
The 27-year-old Englishman was simply untouchable as he steered his car to the fastest time in all three parts of the session, finishing with an outstanding best lap of one minute and 40.630 seconds.
This was good enough to lift him three-tenths of a second clear of his nearest challenger, Mark Webber of Red Bull, who will share the front row with him for Sunday's 55-laps race at the 5.554 kms Yas Marina Circuit.
Defending champion and series leader Vettel was third in the second Red Bull ahead of Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Vettel's main title rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari struggled to qualify seventh in a frustrating session for the former double champion.
After the torrid heat of the afternoon, when Hamilton topped the times in final free practice with a track temperature of 44 degrees Celsius, qualifying began in relatively cooler conditions -- the track was down to 31 degrees and falling.
Alonso and Maldonado were first to deliver fastest laps before Hamilton and Vettel emerged with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The Briton, after locking up and then aborting his first fast lap, swiftly regstered a swift lap in 1:41.497 to move clear at the top by seven-tenths of a second.
Vettel, who had brake problems and missed most of the earlier free practice, glanced the barriers at turn 19 on his first lap, but recovered to leap to fourth before a final flurry of action saw Nico Rosberg take second ahead of Webber, Alonso and Felipe Massa.
At the other end of the time-screens, the usual suspects were eliminated with Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso winding up only 18th and missing the cut.
His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was safe in 15th. Out with Vergne went Charles Pic of Marussia, Vitaly Petrov of Caterham, Timo Glock of in the second Marussia and the two Hispania men Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan.
As the sun set and the lights began to glow, Romain Grosjean set the pace before Webber and then Hamilton responded, the 2008 champion trimming his best, this time on the 'option' softer tyres, to 1:41.366.
On their second runs, Webber went fastest, but was immediately eclipsed by Hamilton who delivered 1:40.901 to remain more than two-tenths ahead of the pack.
All this left the McLaren man oozing with confidence for the top ten shootout as German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India led the list of eliminated men ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber.
Paul di Resta in the second Force India qualified 13th ahead of Michael Schumacher in the second Mercedes, Bruno Senna of Williams, Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and Ricciardo.
Qualifying results below:
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1:41.933||1:41.277||1:40.978||17|
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||1:42.160||1:41.511||1:41.073||16|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:42.579||1:42.019||16|
|13||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:42.572||1:42.218||16|
|17||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:43.280||1:42.765||14|
|18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:44.058||9|
|23||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT||1:45.766||8|
|Q1 107% Time||1:48.601|