ABU DHABI // Red Bull-Renault's title contender Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.
The German will be joined on the front of the grid by McLaren-Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton with Fernando Alonso in third. The last of the four title contenders, Red Bull's Mark Webber qualified in fifth, with Jenson Button fourth.
The four are all competing to win the world title in the final race - the first time in Formula One history that so many drivers have been in contention at this stage.
The competitive practice sets up an eagerly anticipated qualifying session which Red Bull is expected dominate in the same way they have in recent weeks. Practice is often not a good indicator of how the teams will fare tomorrow, since drivers are using it to test new equipment and get used the circuit.
A victory is worth 25 points, while second place is good for 18. Alonso can guarantee himself the title by finishing in the top two.
Alonso can finish as low as third or fourth if Webber doesn't win the race, and he can also win by finishing out of the points as long as Webber doesn't finish in the top five, Vettel is third or lower and Hamilton fails to win.
Webber knows he can win his first F1 title by leading a Red Bull 1-2, but with teams banned from giving team orders - telling drivers to let their teammates pass - it may come down to Vettel voluntarily letting Webber through if the team is to add a drivers' championship to the constructors' title it has already won.
To win the title, Vettel needs to win and hope Alonso is outside the top four. If Vettel is second, both Webber and Alonso need to finish low enough to allow the German to remain at the top.
Hamilton, however, can still win his second title, but the 2008 champion needs a victory coupled with Alonso finishing out of the points, Vettel no higher than third and Webber sixth or lower.
Vettel, after his 15th career pole, said: “We start from pole so it couldn’t be better.
“It was a tough qualifying, we knew conditions could be tricky because temperatures drop at night.
“But in the end we did it. A very good job by the whole team and we now look forward to the race. I’m obviously very pleased. Ten poles in qualifying in one season shows how great our car is.”
Last year’s race winner added: “We have to go step by step to make sure we stay where we are, and then we will see what happens.”
Hamilton, on the front row for the first time since the Belgian Grand Prix, said: “Today is a much better weekend, or start of the weekend.”
Knowing he needs a win, Alonso not to finish in the points, Webber no higher than sixth and Vettel no higher than third, Hamilton then added: “I’ve a good feeling.
“We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’re quite chilled and quite happy. I’m just here enjoying myself and the car and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Alonso, who only crept into the top three on his final lap, said: “It was a tough qualifying for everyone, with positions changing constantly.
“I pushed on the limit, and third place is okay. It was a good qualifying, and now we just need one more day. But anything can happen in the race. We need to complete the 55 laps without any problem.
“It will be a tough race, a long race, but we are in a strong position.”