Mark Webber has secured his second pole position of the season

Mark Webber has come out on top in a thrilling intra-team battle in qualifying, beating his Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel in a close contest for pole position at Abu Dhabi.

Webber’s thirteenth career pole drew him level with the Australian record held by three-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, with the result also coming on the same day that Australia’s last World Champion, Alan Jones, celebrated his 67th birthday.

As the final qualifying shootout got underway, it was Vettel – armed with two fresh sets of Soft-compound Pirelli tyres for the session – who set the initial pace on his first run, with a time of 1:40.091 looking good enough to give him his 44th career pole.

But Webber had other ideas. The Australian had requested some minor front wing adjustments before Q3, and used the extra front-end grip to deliver probably the best qualifying lap of his career, clocking a 1:39.957 to move into top spot.

Vettel tried to respond, bettering his first time by just 0.016 seconds, but it wasn’t quite good enough. Neither he nor Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner could manage enough enthusiasm for Webber’s effort; praise for the Australian sounded damningly false from both, which was disappointing.

Nico Rosberg led the ‘best of the rest’ charge with third, while teammate Lewis Hamilton managed to make it an all-Mercedes second row despite spinning out when his right-rear suspension failed on his final flying lap in Q3.

Kimi Räikkönen took his short wheelbase-configured Lotus to the fifth-fastest time, but the Finn’s troubled weekend took another turn when the stewards revoked all of his qualifying times after his E21 failed a floor deflection test.

That promoted an inspired Nico Hülkenberg into fifth place, ahead of Räikkönen’s teammate Romain Grosjean.

Felipe Massa outqualified Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for the fifth time in the last six races to manage the eighth-fastest time, while the Spaniard’s dreadful weekend was underscored by failing to make the Q3 cut for the first time all season. He qualified eleventh-fastest, but will start from tenth, courtesy of Räikkönen’s penalty.

McLaren’s Sergio Pérez and Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo completed the Q3 timesheets, ensuring that Jenson Button was another high-profile driver to fall in Q2 – the Englishman moaned about a major handling change in his McLaren between Saturday practice and qualifying.

Force India’s Paul di Resta, the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Éric Vergne and the two Williams drivers also made it into Q2, but went no further.

That left Sauber’s Esteban Gutiérrez and Force India’s Adrian Sutil as the two Q1 casualties alongside the usual suspects from Caterham and Marussia. Giedo van der Garde narrowly ensured the qualifying honours fell Caterham’s way this weekend by pipping Jules Bianchi to 19th-fastest, however Bianchi will take a five-place grid penalty for a pre-qualifying gearbox change after he crashed out in final practice earlier in the day.

2013 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:39.957  
2. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:40.075 + 0.118
3. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:40.419 + 0.462
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:40.501 + 0.544
5. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:40.576 + 0.619
6. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:40.997 + 1.040
7. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:41.015 + 1.058
8. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:41.068 + 1.111
9. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:41.111 + 1.154
EXC. Kimi Räikkönen^ FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 Disallowed  
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:40.989   Time Gap*
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:41.093 + 0.620
12. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:41.133 + 0.660
13. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:41.200 + 0.727
14. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:41.279 + 0.806
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:41.395 + 0.922
16. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:41.447 + 0.974
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:41.884   Time Gap**
17. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:41.999 + 1.306
18. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:42.051 + 1.358
19. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:43.252 + 2.559
20. Jules Bianchi^ FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:43.398 + 2.705
21. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:43.528 + 2.835
22. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:44.198 + 3.505

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:40.473 by Nico Rosberg 
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:40.693 by Lewis Hamilton
^ Kimi Räikkönen had his qualifying times excluded and will start from the back of the grid after his car failed a post-qualifying inspection (floor deflection). Jules Bianchi incurs a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.