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Sebastian Vettel storms to pole at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina, 14 November
Race: 1210-1515 on BBC One, Red Button, online and Radio 5 live sports extra

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying

By David Ornstein

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel produced a stunning qualifying lap to take pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old German is one of four men in contention for the title ahead of Sunday's season-ending race.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who still has a slim chance of taking the crown, will start in second and championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari third.

Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber, second in the standings, is fifth on the grid, a place behind McLaren's Jenson Button.

If the drivers finish the race in the same positions as they start, Alonso will clinch a third Formula 1 world title and his first for Ferrari.

JONATHAN LEGARD'S BLOG

The Spaniard leads the standings on 246 points, eight clear of Webber, 15 ahead of Vettel and 24 in front of Hamilton.

There are 25 points for a win, 18 for second, 15 for third, 12 for fourth, 10 for fifth, eight for sixth, six for seventh, four for eighth, two for ninth and one for 10th.

"I pushed on the limit and third place is great," stated Alonso, bidding to become the ninth and youngest triple world champion. "It was a good qualifying for us, and we just need one more day in perfection.

"We are more or less in the same situation as two days ago, we know there are four contenders. Everything is down to Sunday's race.

"Anything can happen, as we saw in the last two races. We need to complete the 55 laps without any problems, it will be a tough and long race for everyone but we are in a very strong position."

Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso

Abu Dhabi GP qualifying - Top three drivers

Since winning the Belgian Grand Prix in August, Hamilton has seen his title challenge fade away but McLaren, aided by a modified rear wing, seem to have found some late-season pace.

"I'm very happy, this is the highest I've been for a long time, the car felt great and I got 100% out of the car and more," said the Englishman.

"We can both push very hard to get second in the constructors' championship but I am going out to win the race.

"The team have done some great things to improve certain parts of the car and it has enabled us to be much more competitive. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Alonso arrived at the Yas Marina Circuit in control of his own destiny but the real momentum was with Vettel, who won in Brazil last Sunday and set the fastest time in Saturday's third and final free practice session.

Webber also had cause for optimism after he was only a tenth of a second slower than Vettel in FP3, while Hamilton showed that his car was more competitive than in recent races by topping the timesheets in Friday practice.

FOUR-WAY TITLE BATTLE EXPLAINED
1 ALONSO 246pts
2 WEBBER 238pts
3 VETTEL 231pts
4 HAMILTON 222pts
If Alonso wins or is second, he is champion
If Webber wins, he wins the title if Alonso is third or worse
If Vettel wins and Alonso is 5th or worse, Vettel wins the title
If Hamilton wins, Alonso must fail to score, Webber be 6th or worse and Vettel 3rd or worse for Hamilton to win the title

It made for an intriguing backdrop and within minutes of the big four heading out for the first part of qualifying it was clear there was little to chose between them.

Vettel and Hamilton looked particularly sharp as they traded fastest laps, with Alonso and Webber snapping at their heels.

Alonso managed a lap of 1:40.170 to jump above Vettel (1:40.318) and Hamilton (1:40.335) - and with Webber recording a 1:40.690, the quartet were separated by just five tenths of a second.

Times continued to improve at the start of Q2 and 2009 champion Button, whose title defence ended in Brazil, set the quickest lap of the day thus far with a 1:40.156.

The Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel were the first of the leading protagonists to switch from the harder prime tyres to the softer option variant and Vettel leaped to the head of the timesheets (1:39.874) on his first flying lap.

Their rivals followed suit by opting for a tyre change and all made it through to the top-10 shootout, but no-one could match Vettel for sheer pace.

And so to the pulsating pressure cooker of a session that was Q3.

Mark Webber

Fat lady hasn't sung yet - Webber

Hamilton (1:39.582) and Button (1:39.823) were the first to make a move, with Alonso, his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello of Williams in close proximity.

But Vettel soon emerged from the pits of the pits to destroy his rivals, posting a scintillating 1:39.488 on his first flying lap, before going just under a tenth quicker on his second (1:39.394).

Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Webber took it in turns to try and usurp the German but to no avail, and the smile that adorned his face on climbing out of the cockpit spoke volumes.

"We start from pole, it couldn't be better," said a beaming Vettel after clinching his 10th pole of the season. "It was a tough qualifying session. It was very close with Lewis especially. We are looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what happens.

"I saw some statistics the other day about how many poles some drivers had got in a season, guys like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Michael Michael - they are all up there.

"With 10 poles I am not at the top so maybe we could work on that next year. But 10 poles in qualifying in one season is a great effort and shows how good the car is."

Meanwhile, Hamilton and Massa will not be punished for an incident which occurred in Q2.

Hamilton, on an out lap, cut across Massa, who was on a timed lap, on the approach to Turn Five and had to take evasive action to prevent a collision, cutting across the corner and hitting a bollard which contained a television camera in the process.

Both drivers were called to the stewards' room after qualifying and after hearing their explanations, it was decided no action should be taken.



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see also
Alonso wants Hamilton to win race
13 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Webber promises fight to the flag
13 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi GP qualifying as it happened
13 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi GP qualifying photos
13 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton heads Abu Dhabi practice
12 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
No team orders, insist Red Bull
11 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso in prime position - Webber
11 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel hints he could help Webber
07 Nov 10 |  Formula 1


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