|Number one: Vettel equalled Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 pole positions in a single season [GALLO/GETTY]|
Double Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel dug deep to seize pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday and equal Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of 14 in a single season.
The 24-year-old German, who has already clinched his second title with Red Bull, saved his best for last after McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had been fastest in the first two phases of qualifying as well as final practice.
Hamilton will start the season’s penultimate race alongside on the front row, with team mate and fellow Briton Jenson Button third.
Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber, seemingly no closer to a first win of the season, lines up fourth.
The pole was the 29th of Vettel’s career and 17th in 18 races this year for Red Bull.
“I think it’s going to be a long, fun race,” said Vettel, who has won both of the two races held to date at the Yas Marina circuit, where last year he won from pole to become Formula One’s youngest champion.
“They will be very quick in the race…it will be a long fight to the chequered flag,” he added, grinning at the McLaren drivers sitting on either side in the post qualifying news conference.
“I’m confident and ready.
“We expected if we got everything right to be closer, much closer than in practice,” added the German, who hit the barriers on Friday.
“I felt there was more in the car and we just had to get to it. Overnight we tried to find where the problem was and this afternoon it was already much better.”
Hamilton, who lapped just nine thousandths of a second faster than Button, appeared to have done enough for his second pole of a troubled season but Vettel pipped him right at the finish.
“I’m happy with today,” said Hamilton.
“And to not have any penalties is a blessing for me.”
Ferrari’s double champion Fernando Alonso and Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa shared the third row, with the latter well away from Hamilton after six collisions between the two this year.
The next rows also followed in pairs, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher seventh and eighth and ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta in ninth and 10th.
Struggling former champions Williams, with a meagre five points from 17 races representing their worst showing in F1, will fill the back row after Brazilian Rubens Barrichello failed to get a lap in.
“We had a brand new engine this morning and it was looking good. We went out and had difficulties after two laps (in practice). We tried to review the situation but before qualifying the team told me there was no way we could go out,” said Barrichello.
His Venezuelan team mate Pastor Maldonado qualified 17th but has a 10 place penalty for exceeding his engine quota for the season.