Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton takes a brilliant pole position for McLaren
Lewis Hamilton was in sensational form as he stormed to pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver beat Red Bull's Mark Webber by 0.348 seconds, with his team-mate Sebastian Vettel third.
But Vettel was later excluded for having insufficient fuel left in the car and will start 24th and last.
Vettel's title rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was seventh despite a number of car upgrades, but will start sixth after Vettel's exclusion.
Vettel was impressive in recovering from missing all but five minutes of the final practice session with a brake problem and fighting a car with which he was clearly not satisfied.
But the German stopped his car out on the track on his way back to the pits at the end of qualifying.
Before the stewards announced their decision, team boss Christian Horner said he had "no idea" as to why the German had stopped. "It was an engineer's request," he said.
Vettel said: "I don't know why I had to stop. I was asked to stop. It shouldn't be something major.
"It was not ideal this morning not being able to run. But we were settling in quite well this afternoon and the pace was there.
"McLaren were very quick. I was not entirely happy with my qualifying, I could have done better but whether it would have been enough to beat Mark I don't know."
The stewards penalised the world championship leader for not having enough fuel in his car for a fuel sample to be taken.
The incident is similar to that of Hamilton in the Spanish Grand Prix in May where the McLaren driver was given the same punishment.
Although Alonso gained a place as a result of Vettel's demotion, it was a disappointing result for the Spaniard, whose team-mate Felipe Massa was ninth.
Alonso had been fourth fastest after the first runs in top 10 shoot-out but he failed to improve on his final run and slipped behind Williams's Pastor Maldonado, Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's Jenson Button.
But Alonso said he had got the everything out of the car.
"We were not competitive today but myself I am happy with the performance in qualifying," Alonso said. "(one minute) 41.5 (seconds) in Q2, 41.5 first attempt in Q3, 41.5 second attempt. I can repeat 100 times; that was the maximum today."
But no-one could touch Hamilton, who appeared in a league of his own all day, topping final practice and all three parts of qualifying.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "He has always been strong here and he is just on fire this weekend."
Hamilton said he was "very excited" about starting from pole, his first since the Italian Grand Prix in mid-September.
"I don't know why the car works so well here," he said. "We've not made any improvements. I guess it just suits the track."
Webber added: "Credit to Lewis and McLaren. They have a quick car this weekend and they have bumped us off the front row. It's the first time in a while, we did the best we could.
"We have a bit of friendly fire going on that we need to sort out."
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2012, day three
- Sunday, 4 November:
- Race 13:00; BBC One (from 12:10), online and Radio 5 live (from 12:55); Race highlights 19:00 BBC Three.