Mark Webber beats Sebastian Vettel to Abu Dhabi pole

German champion-elect makes way for Australian team-mate at the Yas Marina circuit

Red Bull locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but it was Mark Webber and not Sebastian Vettel who secured pole position.

Four-time world champion Vettel had set the pace for the majority of the weekend and had topped the time sheets until Webber’s final qualifying run, as the Australian set a time of one minute and 39.957 seconds to take just his second pole of the year.

The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will start third and fourth respectively after the latter spun off on his final attempt to trouble the marauding Red Bulls.

Last year's race winner Kimi Raikkonen took fifth place for Lotus despite his continued battle of words with the team over his supposed unpaid wages.


His team-mate Romain Grosjean, who has finished on the podium in the previous three grand prix could only manage seventh, with his potential 2014 Lotus partner Nico Hulkenberg starting sixth.

The top 10 was rounded out by Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo, who did well to beat some bigger names into the final qualifying session.

Two former world champions fell in the second part of qualifying as neither Fernando Alonso nor Jenson Button could replicate the pace of their respective team-mates.

Alonso, who has been struggling in his Ferrari for the majority of the weekend, was under a tenth slower than Massa but a lock-up in his final lap meant he could not haul himself into the pole position shoot-out.

Button had shown promise of a strong qualifying performance and was not slow in venting his disappointment over the team radio at only being able to secure 13th place on the grid in his McLaren.

Fellow Brit Paul Di Resta beat Button to 12th place while the second Torro Rosso of Jean-Eric Verne will start from 14th.

Williams got both of their drivers into the second section but neither could progress further with Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas 15th and 16th, respectively.

Adrian Sutil complained of both understeer and oversteer in his Force India during Saturday morning practice and it appeared those demons were not dealt with in time as he slipped out in the first section of qualifying.

Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez only went one better and qualified 17th with the Caterham of Giedo van der Garde the quickest of the new teams.

The Marussia of Jules Bianchi separated Van Der Garde and the sister Caterham of Charles Pic while Max Chilton will start from the back of the grid.

Webber, who will leave both Red Bull and Formula One at the end of the season, had previously taken pole in Japan and was pleased with both his effort and improvement throughout the qualifying hour.

“This weekend has gone pretty smoothly for us,” he said. “Overall I’m happy with the pole. It was a good lap on a track that, in the past, hasn’t been super invigorating for me in terms of layout but we certainly enjoyed qualifying today and we are looking forward to the race tomorrow.

“I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job there, so I needed to match him and keep the areas where I was still doing well.”

Vettel was left feeling he could have gone quicker on his final run but praised Webber’s performance.

“We were still pretty competitive,” the reigning champion said. “There is no guarantee , it is a great result for the team first of all. Mercedes were very strong, both Nico and Lewis, we seemed to be able to find a bit of extra time in Q3 and Mark managed to do a really good lap so congratulations to him.

“I think I should have done a little bit better but I don’t know if that would have been enough and Mark deserves to be on pole tomorrow.”

Rosberg and Hamilton will start third and fourth and, for the former, he had met his qualifying target as Mercedes look to secure second place in the constructors’ championship at the expense of Ferrari.

“In general I’m pleased with the result,” Rosberg said. “Third place and best of the rest which is our target for the weekend. It was nice to annoy the Red Bull a little bit from time to time in qualifying but they were just too quick again. Third place is good, it is good for the constructors. That is what counts for us and locking out the second row of the grid.”