McLaren, Red Bull on front row
BACK ON FORM: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton will start on pole for the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP after a stunning qualifying session.
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
ABU DHABI, UAE - McLaren's Lewis Hamilton denied Red Bull a fourth consecutive pole position on Saturday with a sizzling 2012 Abu Dhabi qualifying lap that pushed championship leader Sebastian Vettel off the front row.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, will have Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber alongside him for Sunday's start instead of the German, who had been on the front in all three races to date at Yas Marina.
Vettel qualified third; Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the defending Red Bull champion's closest title rival who has a 13-point gap to close with three races remaining, will line up a distant seventh.
FRONT ROW AGAIN
Red Bull had locked out the front row of the previous three races.
Briton Hamilton’s most recent previous pole start was in Singapore in October (2012) but he has always started on the front row in the Emirate. This will be his 25th.
Hamilton said: "It's the first time for a long time to be ahead of the Bulls and starting at the front. It's going to be tough in the race and I hope we will be strong enough to fight them once again.
“The car felt beautiful all weekend.”
Vettel, who had brake problems in final practice, was told to stop the car urgently at the end of qualifying but he played down the problem. “I don't know why I had to stop. I was asked to stop. Probably some problem but it shouldn't be something major.”
He’s chasing his fifth win in a row and looking good for a third consecutive title.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was "a request that came from the engine ranks, but at the moment I have no idea why".
'TEAM ORDERS' QUERIED
Vettel also brushed the guardrail in the first part of qualifying, sending out sparks but apparently without damage. He and Hamilton are the only drivers to have won at the new harbourside track.
Webber, effectively out of the championship, inevitably faced questions about so-called “team orders” in favour of his team mate with Red Bull also able to win the Constructors' championship on Sunday.
Alonso, whose car has shown better pace on Sundays than Saturdays in recent races, said he had done the best he could. “We were not competitive today. I'm happy with my performance. We struck the maximum.”
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado qualified a strong fourth for Williams with Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, third in the championship with Lotus, lining up fifth and alongside McLaren's Jenson Button.
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2012 Abu Dhabi F1 GP weekend.
Qualifying from the 2012 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 GP
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min40.630
2 Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull 1min40.978
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull 1min41.073
4 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min41.226
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min41.260
6 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min41.290
7 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min41.582
8 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min41.603
9 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min41.723
10 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min41.778
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min42.019
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1min42.084
13 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min42.218
14 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min42.289
15 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min42.330
16 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min42.606
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min42.765
18 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min44.058
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min44.956
20 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min45.089
21 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min45.151
22 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min45.426
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min45.766
24 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min46.382
1-10 third and final qualifying session
11-17 second qualifying session
18-24 first qualifying session