Mark Webber equalled Jack Brabham’s Australian record of 13 pole positions on Saturday, clocking the fastest lap in a tense qualifying session as Red Bull swept the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old, who retires from Formula One at the end of the season, recorded 1min 39.957sec to edge out four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel.
In a thrilling finale to an intriguing day, the two Red Bull men crossed the line after the chequered flag to clock their best laps, but battling Briton Lewis Hamilton failed to do the same as he spun his Mercedes in the final part of his lap.
“Fantastic guys – thank you for a fantastic job,” said Webber on team radio.
“This weekend has gone pretty smoothly,” he added later.
“Not the smoothest path to the start of Q2 or Q1, we were not electric, but we changed the car quite a bit and I got more and more comfortable as the session went on.
“It made me more comfortable in the final sector, where Seb has been quick, so I was able to match him there and stay where I had been quick already.”
Webber registered his 13th career pole after his 215th race while Brabham logged his from 128 events.
Vettel said it was a great result for the team.
“Mark did a very good lap so congratulations to him. I should have done a bit better, but I don’t know if it would have been enough. He did a great job, no mistakes. It’s a great result for the team and we should have a strong race tomorrow.”
Hamilton ended up fourth and will start alongside his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
“Something broke at the rear of the car,” said a disappointed Hamilton, who has twice previously taken pole at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit.
Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen was fifth but he was relegated to the back of the grid, excluded from the timesheets after his Lotus failed a technical test.
The Finn’s car was judged not to conform to the sport’s technical regulations after a ‘front floor deflection’ test.
After a lengthy meeting with team representatives, the race stewards said they did not accept the Lotus explanation that the floor had been broken due to impact with the kerbs at the spectacular state-of-the-art track.
German Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber was next fastest with Frenchman Romain Grosjean seventh in the second Lotus.
With Raikkonen’s relegation, Hulkenberg will start from fifth, Grosjean from sixth, followed by Brazilian Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez in a McLaren, Australia Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso and Spaniard Fernando Alonso.
Alonso is second in the drivers’ standings, 24 points ahead of Raikkonen with Hamilton another 14 points behind.
Ferrari have also dropped to third in the constructors’ list, four points behind Mercedes.