Lewis Hamilton was in unstoppable form as he flew to his sixth pole position of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton was quickest in every part of qualifying, and his pole of 1:40.630 was over three tenths faster than second placed Mark Webber.
But the huge story from qualifying revolved around the disqualification of Sebastian Vettel. The championship leader had qualified third, but was excluded from the results after stopping out on track following Q3 and failing to provide a big enough fuel sample for the FIA. He will now start the race from the back of the grid.
Vettel fell foul of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Technical Regulations, which states: “Competitors must ensure that a one litre fuel sample may be taken from the car at any time during the event.”
Vettel’s Red Bull only had 850ml of fuel in its tank when it was returned to the pits, and as a result he was penalised by the stewards.
The news is a huge blow to the reigning world champion, who had qualified four places in front of main rival Fernando Alonso and was in a great position to further extend his points lead. The Ferrari driver has struggled to get up to speed with a raft of upgrades on his car and set only the seventh fastest time in Q3, but will now start sixth following Vettel’s exclusion.
It also means that should Alonso finish on the podium tomorrow and Vettel fail to score any points, the Spaniard will re-take the lead of the world championship going into the final two rounds.
Elsewhere, Pastor Maldonado produced a stunning lap in his Williams and will start third, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth and Jenson Button, who has struggled to match the pace of teammate Hamilton all weekend, down in fifth.
Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa are next, whilst Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.
Hulkenberg’s teammate Paul di Resta starts 11th and shares the sixth row with Sergio Perez, who escaped with a reprimand from the stewards after being found to have impeded Bruno Senna in the first part of qualifying.
Michael Schumacher is 13th, with Senna, Kamui Kobayashi and Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the runners who dropped out in Q2.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the main casualty of Q1 for the second race running, whilst Heikki Kovalainen led the usual group of backmarkers.
But it’s the incident surrounding Vettel that will dominate the headlines, with the consequences of his penalty likely to play a huge role in the outcome of the championship.
1) Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes – 1:40.630
2) Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault – 1:40.978
3) Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault – 1:41.226
4) Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault – 1:41.260
5) Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes – 1:41.290
6) Fernando Alonso Ferrari – 1:41.582
7) Nico Rosberg Mercedes – 1:41.603
8) Felipe Massa Ferrari – 1:41.723
9) Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault – 1:41.778
10) Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes – 1:42.019
11) Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari – 1:42.084
12) Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes – 1:42.218
13) Michael Schumacher Mercedes – 1:42.289
14) Bruno Senna Williams-Renault – 1:42.330
15) Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari – 1:42.606
16) Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:42.765
17) Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:44.058
18) Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault – 1:44.956
19) Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth – 1:45.089
20) Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault – 1:45.151
21) Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth – 1:45.526
22) Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth – 1:45.766
23) Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth – 1:46.382
24) Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault – DISQUALIFIED