Lewis Hamilton took a stunning pole position for the decisive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but Nico Rosberg remains on course for the title. The German, who needs only to finish in the top three today to win the world championship, qualified second fastest, 0.303 seconds behind Hamilton.

Hamilton needs two other cars between himself and Rosberg, but Mercedes’ rivals were off their pace. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third, but 0.834secs slower than Hamilton.

Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen sixth.

Hamilton’s performance was one of the most impressive of a season in which he has now taken 12 poles to Rosberg’s eight despite not even being able to compete in qualifying in three races because of reliability problems.

Hamilton topped all three sessions of qualifying – and was 1.024secs quicker than Rosberg in Q1, 0.108secs in Q2 and then the final margin of nearly a third of a second.

It was the 61st pole of his career, four behind his hero Ayrton Senna and seven behind all-time record holder Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton said: “Wow, 61 poles. I am going to try to catch Ayrton. It has been a strange feeling coming here and realising it was going to be the last session, the last qualifying in such a great car – you never know when you are going to have a car like this again.

“We got the car in a great sweet spot and I want to thank everyone – I would not have the 61 poles if it was not for them. The perfect position for tomorrow.”

Rosberg said: “I had a good balance and was feeling quite pleased. I got a good lap in the end but it was not good enough. I gave it everything but it wasn’t possible to beat Lewis today. But I will give it everything tomorrow.”