Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates pole position during the qualifying session at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday. Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

ABU DHABI – Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton secured pole position in qualifying on Saturday for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver set a best lap of 1 minute 34.779 seconds on the 5.554-kilometre Yas Marina course, beating team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.194 seconds.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen was third but will start on the front row, with Bottas last on the grid after an engine change. Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth respectively.

It was Hamilton's first pole since the German Grand Prix 10 races ago, his 88th in all and the sixth successive for Mercedes at the circuit.

"It was such a long slog trying to get this pole position in and we just kept our heads down and the guys have done a great job," Hamilton said.

"Yesterday was quite wobbly so I had to recompose myself and had to come back today and re-focus. I managed to dial in the car with the hard work of the engineers."

Bottas had been quickest in Friday's first two practice sessions, with Verstappen topping the time sheets in Saturday's earlier third practice.

"As a team it has been a really strong day, we've had good pace," Bottas said. "It didn't feel as good today as yesterday but I think Lewis made some good improvements.

"In any case I'm going to start last and we will find the fighting spirit tomorrow. I believe, anything is possible, we have a very good car. Sunday is normally stronger for us and we'll give it all we have."

Verstappen said: "Today was the best we could do. Mercedes is quite dominant here.

"Overall, pretty happy. It is good to start on the front row. Still a lot of chances for the race and we will see what happens."

Hamilton has already wrapped up his sixth drivers' championship and Mercedes the constructors' title.

The remaining top 10 positions were taken by Red Bull's Alexander Albon, Lando Norris in a McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo in a Renault, Carlos Sainz in a McLaren and Nico Huelkenberg, in possibly his last qualifying after being released by Renault.

Vettel span at the start of his opening session but comfortably progressed into Q2 while Haas driver Romain Grosjean, Alfa Romeo duo Kim Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi and the Williams pair George Russell and Robert Kubica went out.

Kubica, in his last race for the team, has lost all 21 qualifying duels with his team-mate.

Sergio Perez (Racing Point), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) missed the cut for Q3.

Although Hamilton and Bottas have already secured first and second in the drivers' championship, third place is still up for grabs, with Verstappen 11 points ahead of Leclerc.

DPA