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Superb Hamilton storms to pole

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Venue: Yas Marina Dates: 30 Oct - 1 Nov 2009 Coverage: Comprehensive live coverage of Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 GMT - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Lewis Hamilton

Highlights - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying

By Chris Whyatt

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in pole position after dominating qualifying at the final race of the season.

Hamilton, who has appeared throughout the weekend to have an edge over his closest rivals, headed the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Brawn's Rubens Barrichello, fighting with Vettel for second in the championship, will start fourth.

The Brazilian is ahead of team-mate and new world champion Jenson Button.

Hamilton, who became Formula 1's youngest world champion in 2008, struggled in a poor car at the start of the season.

BBC SPORT'S FUEL-ADJUSTED GRID (with projected race first pit stops*)
1 Hamilton (lap 17 of 55)
2 Vettel+0.496secs (lap 19)
3 Webber +0.721 (lap 18)
4 Trulli +0.721 (lap 18)
5 Barrichello +0.971 (lap 16)
6 Button +1.001 (lap 17)
7 Heidfeld +1.186 (lap 19)
8 Kubica +1.196 (lap 15)
9 Rosberg 1.388 (lap 19)
10 Buemi+1.651 (lap 18)
* Calculated on the weight of fuel left in cars after qualifying had finished

But he and his team are right back on form and, after an hour-long session which started in daylight but finished under a setting sun with the floodlights on, the 24-year-old landed his 17th career pole in 52 races with a lap almost 0.7 seconds quicker than second-placed Vettel.

"It's never easy, but it was definitely as fun as it looked," he said.

"The car is the best it has been all year. It was a smooth lap, and it just kept getting better and better."

"The place is just stunning. They all said it would be a great event, but it's mind-blowing. I hope we can put on a great show tomorrow."

Button, the man who has deposed Hamilton as champion, has not been on pole since Monaco in May and will attempt to win his first race since Turkey in early June with four of his strongest rivals in front of him.

"Was that satisfactory? No, of course not," he told BBC Sport.

F1 MOLE BLOG

"Qualifying was really good... [but then] in Q3 I had massive vibrations and I don't know why. I don't know if it's to do with the brakes or the tyres. Hopefully we can sort it out because that would be a nightmare in the race."

Most drivers struggled to find early grip on the lavish and expensive new track, but that should not prove a real problem on Sunday as more and more rubber gets laid down during the sport's first-ever twilight race.

In double world champion Fernando Alonso's final appearance for Renault before he leaves for Ferrari, the Spaniard suffered the worst qualifying session of his underwhelming season to finish down in 16th.

Jenson Button

Button disappointed with qualifying

But he was optimistic he will be able to end his seven-year career racing for the French team with a positive result.

"Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good race with plenty of overtaking manoeuvres," he told BBC Sport. "The track is quite wide so there should be places to get past people."

After stopping with transmission problems in the second session, Hamilton's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen qualified only 13th - and he was demoted a further five places when it emerged McLaren would have to change his gearbox.

Speaking about the effects of driving as the natural light gives way to artificial light, Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen - who will start Sunday's race from 11th - said it was not a major factor.

"You don't really notice because the lights are so strong," he said. "It doesn't make any difference really."

Vettel is aiming to cement his second place in the drivers' championship by finishing ahead of Barrichello on Sunday.

"It's a great way to start the last race of the year," said the German. "Both of us [he and Webber] are a little surprised at the gap to Lewis, but he has been strong all weekend.

"It's been difficult to match him, but let's see the fuel loads and let's see on Sunday because we've good race pace."

Sebastian vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber

Abu Dhabi qualifying - top three drivers

Webber added: "Today is the story of the second half of the championship as Lewis has been strong, and Brawn have been there as well."

Fuel loads, which help to give a better picture of race pace and pit-stop strategy, are as yet unknown.

But the view across the paddock is that Abu Dhabi's inaugural race is Hamilton's to lose.

"He's come with a point to prove," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh. "He's scored more racing points than anyone else in the second half of the season. Lewis wants another win and so do we."



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see also
Abu Dhabi GP qualifying as it happened
31 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi GP qualifying photos
31 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
From Shropshire to Abu Dhabi GP
30 Oct 09 |  People and Places
Abu Dhabi GP practice as it happened
30 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice results
14 Sep 09 |  Results
Discover the new Abu Dhabi track
17 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Zoom in and fly around Yas Marina
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Button enjoys absence of pressure
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
No Donington GP, says Ecclestone
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Rosberg announces Williams exit
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Glock not 'risked' for F1 finale
27 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel vows to fight for second
26 Oct 09 |  Formula 1


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