While the battle for the drivers' world championship is between German Sebastian Vettel and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, there is no doubt Britain's Lewis Hamilton is still one of the fastest drivers on the grid.
Hamilton showed why Mercedes lured him away from his boyhood team McLaren with a dynamite fastest lap around the Abu Dhabi ciruit on Saturday in qualifying.
For the first time in four races, Red Bull were knocked from the top spot on the grid, with Hamilton starting on pole ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber.
World championship leader Vettel finished third quickest, however, he was later disqualified from qualifying and sent to the back of the field after a fuel irregularity. The decision moved Alonso from seventh up to sixth and gives him a golden opportunity to make up some ground on Vettel.
"The car's felt beautiful all weekend"
Hamilton has shown his speed during qualifying frequently this year finishing on pole six times, more than any other driver.
Vettel has led a grand prix on five occasions with teammate Webber next in the pecking order with two poles, tied with Alonso.
The 27-year-old Englishman was simply untouchable as he steered his car to the fastest time in all three parts of the session, finishing with an outstanding best lap of one minute and 40.630 seconds.
This was good enough to lift him three-tenths of a second clear of his nearest challenger Webber, who will share the front row with him for Sunday's 55-laps race at the 5.554 kms Yas Marina Circuit.
"It's the first time for a long time to be ahead of the Bulls and starting at the front," said Briton Hamilton, who was last on pole in Singapore last month but has always started on the front row in the Emirate.
"It's going to be tough in the race and I hope we are strong enough to fight them once again. The car's felt beautiful all weekend," he said after his 25th career pole.
Vettel's qualifying did not run smoothly and the disqualification came when his car did not have enough fuel for a fuel sample to be taken.
The German had brake problems in final practice and was told urgently to stop the car at the end of qualifying but played down the problem.
"I don't know why I had to stop. I was asked to stop. Probably some problem. But it shouldn't be something major," said the German, chasing his fifth win in a row and third successive title.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was "a request that came from the engine ranks, but at the moment I have no idea why".
Vettel also brushed the guardrail in the first part of qualifying, sending out sparks, but appeared to escape without damage. He and Hamilton are the only drivers to have ever won at the harbourside track.
Webber, who is effectively out of the championship, inevitably faced questions about so-called 'team orders' in favour of his teammate with Red Bull able to win the constructors' championship on Sunday.
Alonso, whose car has shown better pace on Sundays than Saturdays in recent races, said he had done the best he could in the circumstances.
"We were not competitive today. I'm happy with my performance. We struck the maximum," the Spaniard said.
The signs are that Hamilton could be on for his fourth win of the season, especially with a gap between himself and Alonso and with Vettel at the back of the grid.