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Hamilton clinches pole

Vettel finishes second

— PHOTO: AFP

TOP THREE: McLaren Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, who took the pole, is flanked by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

ABU DHABI: Briton Lewis Hamilton claimed the 17th pole position of his career on Saturday when he topped the times in a floodlit qualifying session for Sunday’s inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Englishman, in his McLaren-Mercedes, continued the domination he has enjoyed for most of the weekend by clocking a best lap of one minute and 40.948 seconds, with a heavy fuel load, in the top 10 shootout.

Fourth pole

It was Hamilton’s fourth pole of the season and provided convincing evidence that he is hunting victory in the final race of the 2009 season at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit.

Hamilton wound up seven-tenths of a second faster than German Sebastian Vettel, who was second ahead of his Red Bull teammate Australian Mark Webber.

Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, in probably his last race for the Brawn GP team with which he won the constructors championship in Brazil two weeks ago, was fourth-fastest ahead of newly-acclaimed champion Briton Jenson Button, his Brawn team-mate.

Italian Jarno Trulli was sixth for Toyota, ahead of Pole Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber and his team-mate German Nick Heidfeld.

Body blow

Force India’s chance of collecting points from the year’s final race received a body blow with Vitantonio Liuzzi occupying a lowly 17th place, just ahead of teammate Adrian Sutil.

It was heartbreak for both the Force India drivers as neither of them made it to the second qualifying session (Q2) with Liuzzi finishing 17th and Sutil 18th. They were among the bottom five to drop out after the first session.

Former Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella, double world champion Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean were the three other drivers who dropped out after Q1.

Alonso, who on Friday said he was ‘performing small miracles’ every Saturday to qualify in the top 10, this time said: “Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good race with plenty of overtaking manoeuvres, the track is quite wide so there should be places to get past people.”

The results (top 10):

1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) 1 minute, 40.948 seconds; 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:41.615; 3. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:41.726; 4. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP) 1:41.786; 5. Jenson Button (Brawn GP) 1:41.892; 6. Jarno Trulli (Toyota) 1:41.897; 7. Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) 1:41.992; 8. Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) 1:42.343; 9. Nico Rosberg (Williams) 1:42.583; 10. Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) 1:42.713. — Agencies

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