McLaren's Lewis Hamilton won the pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while current points leader Sebastian Vettel was excluded from Saturday's qualifying due to insufficient fuel in his car.
Hamilton, who is leaving McLaren and joining Mercedes at the end of this season, topped Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Vettel in qualifying with a lap around the 3.451-mile Yas Marina Circuit in 1 minute, 40.630. It was Hamilton's sixth pole of the season and the 25th of his Formula One career. He also won the pole for the 2009 inaugural Abu Dhabi GP.
Either Vettel or Webber has won the pole in the last three grand prix -- Japan, Korea and India.
"I'm very excited," Hamilton said. "It's the first time in a long time to be ahead of the Red Bulls and not have to see the tail end of them at the start of the race. As always, I know it's going to be very tough in the race, because they have great race pace. I hope we're strong enough to fight them."
Vettel, who presently holds a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso from Ferrari, initially finished third in qualifying with a lap at 1:41.073, but the two- time defending F1 world champion stopped his Red Bull car in turn 18 during his slowdown lap. He was told over his team radio to pull off to the side of the circuit following advice from engine supplier Renault.
"I don't know why I had to stop," Vettel said after qualifying. "I was asked to stop. It's probably some problem, but it shouldn't be something major. This morning (final practice session) wasn't ideal not being able to run, so we didn't get the answers that we were hoping for. Nevertheless, we were settling in quite well, and the pace was there.
Race stewards investigated the incident, and after a lengthy discussion, stewards accepted that Vettel had stopped due to reasons of "force majeure," but there wasn't enough fuel in his RB8 car to provide a one-liter sample in post-qualifying scrutineering, as required by the sport's technical regulations. Therefore, Vettel will have to start from pit lane, which puts him at the back of the 24-car field.
"The stewards heard from the driver and team representatives and studied telemetry evidence that showed the reason why the car was stopped," F1's governing body, the FIA, said in a statement. "The stewards accepted the explanation and considered the incident as being a case of force majeure. However, a report was received from the technical delegate that showed during post-qualifying scrutineering an insufficient quantity of fuel for sampling purposes."
Webber will start alongside Hamilton on the front row after posting a lap in 1:40.978.
"We did the best we could," Webber said. "I think it was a pretty smooth qualifying session for both Seb and I. It's still a long way up the grid, so I think it went well."
Vettel is attempting to win his fifth consecutive grand prix. His streak began in Singapore, and then he has led every lap to win in Japan, Korea and India.
"During the slowdown lap following the final run of Q3, Renault instructed to immediately stop Sebastian's car on the circuit due to an issue with the fuel system," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after the FIA made its decision. "We will need to make the most of Mark's strong front row grid position, and Sebastian will have a busy evening ahead of him."
In May, Hamilton lost his pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona after stewards determined his car did not have sufficient fuel on board during qualifying. Hamilton came to a stop on the track at the end of Q3 after being told by the team to pull over. McLaren determined there wasn't enough fuel in his car to enable it to return under its own power to pit road. He finished eighth in that race.
Hamilton is the defending winner of the Abu Dhabi GP. He was quickest in the first and third practice sessions here prior to being fastest in all three qualifying segments.
"The team has done a fantastic job all weekend, and the car has felt beautiful all weekend," he said. "I don't know why the car works so well here. We've not really made any improvements to the car since the last race, so I guess it just suits the track."
With Vettel now starting from the rear of the field, Pastor Maldonado from Williams will roll off third, followed by followed by Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton's teammate, Jenson Button.
Alonso will start sixth in what had been a disappointing performance for him in qualifying.
"We were not competitive today," he said. "Normally, the pace improves for Sunday, so let's hope we can recover some pace."
Starting seventh through 10th will be: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa from Ferrari and Lotus' Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg from Force India.
Sunday's 55-lap Abu Dhabi GP is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. (ET).