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Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by a crushing 0.7sec margin over the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
McLaren driver Hamilton had dominated the early stages of qualifying – topping Q1 by half a second and Q2 by 0.3sec. He then squandered his first Q3 lap by running wide at Turn 17, but regrouped and set a 1m41.773s next time around to take provisional pole from Rubens Barrichello (Brawn).
Red Bull's Vettel and Webber then made massive gains to jump from potential fourth row positions to first and second in the closing seconds. However Hamilton was already on a much faster final lap, and he duly put in a time of 1m40.948s to take his fourth pole of 2009.
An all-McLaren front row looked possible given the team's practice pace, but Heikki Kovalainen's car stopped with a transmission fault in Q2. Third at the time, he slipped to 13th on the grid.
Vettel, Webber and Barrichello remained in second to fourth positions, with new World Champion Jenson Button fifth in the second Brawn.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli was a contender for pole early in Q3 but found himself edged down to sixth by the end, ahead of the two BMWs, which share row four for the team's final race. Williams's Nico Rosberg and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi completed the top ten.
Neither Ferrari made it into the top 10 – making 2009 the first season since 1993 that the team has not managed a single pole. Kimi Raikkonen only narrowly missed Q3 in 11th place, but his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was slowest of all – leaving Ferrari hard-pressed to overcome McLaren's two-point advantage in their battle for third in the Constructors' Championship.
It was an even worse session for Renault. Fernando Alonso could only manage 16th, so was eliminated in Q1 for the first time ever, while his teammate Romain Grosjean had a spin on the way to 19th, behind the disappointing Force Indias.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:39.873 1:39.695 1:40.948
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:40.666 1:39.984 1:41.615
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:40.667 1:40.272 1:41.726
4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:40.574 1:40.421 1:41.786
5. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:40.378 1:40.148 1:41.892
6. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:40.517 1:40.373 1:41.897
7. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:40.520 1:40.545 1:41.992
8. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:40.558 1:40.635 1:42.343
9. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:40.842 1:40.661 1:42.583
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:40.908 1:40.430 1:42.713
11. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:41.100 1:40.726
12. Kobayashi Toyota (B) 1:41.035 1:40.777
13. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:40.808 1:40.983
14. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:41.096 1:41.148
15. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:41.503 1:41.689
16. Alonso Renault (B) 1:41.667
17. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:41.701
18. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:41.863
19. Grosjean Renault (B) 1:41.950
20. Fisichella Ferrari (B) 1:42.184
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