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Hamilton dominates to take pole in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton has dominated qualifying for the 2009 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday evening, taking pole position for the first race at the new Yas Marina circuit after his final lap of 1min 40.948 was more than six-tenths of a second better than the rest of the field.

The McLaren driver secured his third pole in the last five races with an imperious display that saw him top the timesheets in all three parts of the qualifying hour. The pole is the 17th of Hamilton’s 52-race Formula One career, and his fourth pole of the season means he equals new world champion Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing with most poles in the field for the 2009 season.

“It was kind of a smooth lap, it just kept getting better and better—I’m very happy with it for sure,” said Hamilton, adding that the Yas Marina organisers had created “almost the perfect track”.

Vettel, who briefly took provisional pole before being bumped back to second by Hamilton’s stunning final lap, will start from the front of the grid for the eighth time in the 2009 season tomorrow. The German jumped ahead of teammate Mark Webber after his final lap, with the Australian a tenth of a second behind Vettel in third place.

“Looking ahead, I think both of us (he and Webber) were a little bit surprised by the gap (to Hamilton),” was Vettel’s reaction. “Lewis has been strong all weekend; generally McLaren is very strong here.. For sure I think it was the maximum we could do, so I’m very pleased so far. I think tomorrow we should have a good race: the car is working well here, it just seems that our KERS button which we have on the steering-wheel is not working!”

“The grid this afternoon, or tonight I should say, is the story of the second part of the championship,” commented Webber. “Lewis has been here and there at a lot of venues, they’re very strong here and Brawn are just there as well so it’s very much a message of how the second part of the championship’s gone.”

Rubens Barrichello qualified fourth for Brawn GP, while teammate Button was fifth, his best qualifying performance since the European Grand Prix at Valencia in August. The top 10 was rounded out by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, BMW Sauber duo Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg for Williams, and Sebastien Buemi for Toro Rosso on his 21st birthday.
It was a miserable qualifying session for Ferrari’s Giancarlo Fisichella, who was 20th and last, more than a second behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen in 14th. The highest-profile casualty of the first session was two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who had his worst qualifying result of the season when he finished 16th ahead of his final race for Renault before joining Ferrari next season.

The inaugural F1 race at the Yas Marina circuit will be held over 55 laps from 5pm on Sunday.

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