ABU DHABI, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton harnessed the force of his family on Saturday to deny Red Bull a fourth successive front row lockout and put McLaren back on pole at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Briton won in the oil-rich Emirate last year, with his mother in attendance on her birthday, and this time had his cousins present in the paddock as well as his father and stepmother.
“Those extra three tenths came from my family,” said Hamilton, who qualified with a best time of one minute 40.630 seconds.
Australian Mark Webber was second fastest for Formula One champions Red Bull in 1:40.978.
”If I‘m honest, the best races I’ve ever had have been when my family is there, in terms of just how the weekends have gone,“ the McLaren driver, whose aunt died recently, told reporters. ”To have that support just means so much.
“Just before qualifying, rather than being in my room for the whole 40 minutes or so, I was down here right until the last minute just chatting with my cousins and absorbing their energy...it’s just a real positive.”
The 27-year-old was dominant on Saturday, quickest in final practice and then fastest at every stage of qualifying to seize pole while Red Bull’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel ended up off the Abu Dhabi front row for the first time in his career.
The pole was the 2008 world champion’s sixth of the season and 25th of his career.
Hamilton, who joins currently uncompetitive Mercedes next season as Michael Schumacher’s replacement, has not won a race since Italy in September.
He was last on pole in Singapore that same month, but failed to finish, with Vettel starting a run of four wins in succession and leading every race lap since then.
“It’s the first time for a long time to be ahead of the Red Bulls, and not to be seeing the tail of them at the start of the race, but I know it’s going to be as always very tough in the race because they’ve got great race pace,” said the Briton.
“But we are strong enough to fight them, the team’s done a fantastic job all weekend. The car’s felt beautiful all weekend,” he added.
Hamilton is effectively out of the championship, lagging Vettel by 75 points with a maximum 75 still to be won and only mathematically still in the reckoning insofar as he could by some miracle win the last three races while Vettel fails to score another point.
He would be the last person to expect that to happen but the hunger to win races remains as fierce as ever and he is determined to continue a love-in with the Abu Dhabi track.
“This one just seems to go really well for me,” he said of the harbourside layout. “I feel good here. I know where I need to put the car, I know where to find the time. I guess I just click with this circuit.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)