Mark Webber seized pole position for the floodlit Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Red Bull team mate and quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel making a rare error and having to settle for second best on Saturday.
Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia drives during the qualifying session of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island, November 2, 2013.
The pole, with Webber approaching the end of his Formula One career this month, was the Australian's 13th in 12 years and second in three races.
"Mark did a very good lap so congratulations to him," said Vettel, who is chasing his seventh win in a row after wrapping up a fourth successive title with victory from pole in India last weekend.
"I should have done a little bit better, but I don't know if it would have been enough. He did a great job, no mistakes," added the German, whose team also secured their fourth constructors' crown in a row in India.
"We lost it in turn one, sorry guys," the 26-year-old had said over the team radio, explaining later that he had pushed too hard.
Mercedes filled the second row at the Yas Marina circuit, with Germany's Nico Rosberg qualifying third and Britain's 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton fourth despite spinning off on his final lap when the car's right rear wishbone broke after he hit the kerb.
Until then, the split times showed the Briton had the pace to be on the front row.
"I don't think there is any high risk for tomorrow and we should be able to fix it in parc ferme and race OK tomorrow," said principal Ross Brawn.
Only Vettel and Hamilton, when he was with McLaren, had previously qualified on pole in the four races to date in the Emirate, but Webber has qualified well there before even if it is not a favourite track.
"I think it's probably no secret that I like the more flowing circuits," he said. "I think it's a strong type of layout for Seb, as he's proved in Singapore and those type of tracks."
Kimi Raikkonen, who is third overall and 24 points behind future Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso, qualified fifth for Lotus in a race he had contemplated not coming to only days earlier.
The Finn, who won in Abu Dhabi last year, had told reporters on Friday he had not been paid by Lotus all season, and he might have wondered why he bothered after his car failed a post-qualifying floor test and he was sent to the back of the starting grid.
That lifted Alonso to 10th on the grid, a boost for the Spaniard in his battle to lift Ferrari back ahead of second-placed Mercedes in the constructors' standings while staving off Lotus.
Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa, who is leaving the team at the end of the year to make way for Raikkonen, starts seventh with Mexican Sergio Perez alongside for McLaren.
"All weekend we haven't been so quick and in qualifying we were not so fast," Alonso told reporters. "Also my laps were not so clean and I lost a couple of tenths."
Raikkonen's team mate, Romain Grosjean, who has finished third in his last three races, moved up to sixth after Raikkonen's exclusion with Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg in fifth.
McLaren suffered a mysterious lack of pace after looking more promising in practice, with Jenson Button qualifying only 13th - but starting 12th - and baffled by the car.
"I didn't have any grip, just couldn't get the tyres working," said the 2009 champion.
"It's completely different to what I've experienced all weekend. Everything was a challenge today," added the Briton, whose team have yet to finish higher than fifth this season.
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