Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel grabbed his record-tying 10th pole of the season after outrunning Lewis Hamilton from McLaren in Saturday's qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Vettel, who is one of the four drivers remaining in contention to win the Formula One world championship, set a blistering lap around the 3.451-mile (5.554 km) Yas Marina Circuit in one minute, 39.394 seconds.
"We're starting from the pole, and it couldn't be better," said Vettel, who has won two of the last three grand prix. "I think it was a tough qualifying session. We knew the conditions would be tricky with the temperatures dropping a little bit at night. During yesterday's practice, we didn't look too good. We weren't one hundred percent happy, but I think we made a big step today."
Vettel became the seventh driver in F1 history to notch 10 poles in a season.
"With 10 poles, I am not at the top, but maybe we can work on that next year," he added.
The 23-year-old German is the defending winner of the Abu Dhabi GP.
Hamilton qualified 0.31 seconds behind Vettel to claim the outside pole, while Fernando Alonso placed his Ferrari third on the starting grid.
"Today is a much better start to the weekend," Hamilton said. "We seemed to have done some great things with improving certain parts of the car, and it's enabled us to a lot more competitive this weekend."
Only 24 points separate leader Alonso from fourth-place Hamilton, making it the closest title battle heading into the F1 season-finale. Last week, Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix and moved to within 15 points of Alonso. Vettel is hoping to become the youngest world champion.
If Alonso finishes second or better, the Spaniard will clinch his third F1 title, regardless of any other driver's performance.
"I think it was a good qualifying session for us, and we need just one more day in perfection," Alonso said.
Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, qualified a disappointing fifth. Webber trails Alonso by eight points.
"I could not get the pace," Webber told the BBC. "We are still in the hunt, and that's the main thing. It's disappointing, but there is still a long way to go."
Button, who was eliminated from title contention last weekend in Brazil, qualified fourth in his McLaren car.
Hamilton, who is 24 points in back of the lead, is a long shot to win the title.
The winner of a grand prix is awarded 25 points, with 20 points given to second place and 15 for third. The next seven finishers are scored in the following order: 10-8-6-5-3-2-1.
Felipe Massa from Ferrari qualified sixth, followed by Williams' Rubens Barrichello.
Mercedes GP teammates Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg will start eighth and ninth, respectively. Vitaly Petrov from Renault will roll off tenth.
Sunday's 55-lap Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 8:00 am (et).