Hamilton takes pole for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton lit up the new Yas Marina circuit as the sun set on the final qualifying session of the 2009 Formula One season.

Against the stunning backdrop of the Middle East's new £800million motor sport playground, last year's world champion was quickest at the end of every period ahead of tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

McLaren star Hamilton ultimately grabbed the 17th pole of his career in dominant fashion, finishing almost 0.7 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel as the Red Bull driver aims to cement second place in the drivers' standings.

Hopes of an all-British front row for the first time since the 1995 Australian Grand Prix came to nothing as new world champion Jenson Button will start fifth in his Brawn GP.

Mark Webber, winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, ensured Hamilton will be pushed by Red Bull at the start of the 55-lap race as the Australian claimed third.

Rubens Barrichello again pipped team-mate Button for the 10th time this season as the Brazilian, in what many believe is his last race for Brawn, starts fourth.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli and BMW Sauber duo Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld are sixth, seventh and eighth, with Nico Rosberg in his Williams ninth and Sebastien Buemi 10th for Toro Rosso.

Any hope Ferrari had of finishing third in the constructors' race, so ousting McLaren, are now slim as Kimi Raikkonen missed out on a place in the top 10 for only the third time this season.

The Finn, in his final race for Ferrari and with his destination unknown for next year, starts 11th, with Toyota's Kamui Kobayashi alongside him on row six.

Heikki Kovalainen, potentially in the last-chance saloon with McLaren, is down in 13th after a gearbox issue cut short his track time in the middle 15-minute period.

If a replacement is more than likely required it means he will incur a five-place penalty and will drop to 18th for the race.

The Finn is followed by Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, another almost certainly on his way out of F1, and Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari who for now start 14th and 15th.

Renault suffered their worst qualifying performance of the season as neither Fernando Alonso nor Romain Grosjean failed to make it beyond the opening 20-minute session.

Double world champion Alonso, in his final race for Renault prior to his multi-million pound move to Ferrari next season, will start from his lowest position of the year in 16th.

The Spaniard finished an astonishing 1.8secs behind Hamilton, who became the first driver to dip below one minute 40 seconds.

Grosjean, almost certainly on his way as he has disappointed since stepping in for the axed and disgraced Nelson Piquet Jnr, is 19th.

The two Renault drivers sandwich the Force India duo of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil in 17th and 18th, with Giancarlo Fisichella embarrassingly at the back of the grid in his Ferrari.

The Italian has failed to get to grips with the car since replacing Luca Badoer, who in turn had stepped in for the injured Felipe Massa following his horrific accident in Hungary.

Such a position is not the way Fisichella would have wanted to start what will be the final race of his 229-grand prix career ahead of becoming Ferrari's reserve for next year.

After his fourth pole in the last seven races, Hamilton said: "It's never easy, but it was definitely as fun as it looked.

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

Reflecting on the circuit, the 24-year-old added: "The place is just stunning, They all said it would be a great event, but it's mind-blowing.

"It's a great place to come to, a great country. The weather has been great and the people are so respectful and so welcoming.

"I hope we can put on a great show tomorrow."

In terms of his hopes of ending the season on a high, Vettel knows he could not have done any better given Hamilton's form.

"It's a great way to start the last race of the year," smiled Vettel.

"Both of us (he and Webber) are a litle 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 tomorrrow because we've good race pace."

Like Vettel, Webber is hoping to keep the Brawns at bay, despite the fact they can no longer claim the constructors' crown.

"I hope we can hold them," said Webber.

"But today is the story of the second half of the championship as Lewis has been strong, and Brawn have been there as well."



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