Abu Dhabi: Hamilton on pole by 6/10ths
Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber will start 3rd.
The Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and new World Champion Jenson Button round out the top-5.
Hamilton's pole was no fluke though. He dominated all three stages of qualifying - topping Q1 by half a second and Q2 by 3/10ths and then a phenomenal 6/10ths in Q3.
The action began in daylight with darkness rapidly falling over the course of the qualifying hour and the floodlights coming on to illuminate the track.
Nick Heidfeld came up with a novel solution to tackle sunset during qualifying at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit.
With the session beginning at 5pm and ending under dark skies and floodlights, visibility is a dilemma for F1's drivers in terms of selecting the most appropriate tint for their visors.
"I am using a clear visor," said Jarno Trulli, favoring best visibility in the dark, but Sebastien Buemi told Auto Motor und Sport that he opted for a light tint to tackle the lowering sun and glare.
BMW-Sauber's Heidfeld, however, settled for no such compromise. His Schuberth visor had a clear visor, but several tinted rip-off strips sat atop.
"When there is daylight I have the shade and when it's dark I tear them off," said the German.
Buemi was surprised: "I didn't know you could do that!"
After pulling out of qualifying on Saturday, Heikki Kovalainen's woes deepened when it emerged he will drop even further down the grid for the Abu Dhabi grand prix.
While his teammate Lewis Hamilton looks set to dominate the race from pole position, the Finn suffered a gearbox failure during the 'Q2' segment.
The McLaren transmission cannot be repaired and therefore must be replaced for the race, incurring a five-place grid demotion for an unscheduled change.
Kovalainen, 28, therefore drops from 13th to 18th.
"I already had minor problems with the gearbox yesterday when it jumped out of gear, so it's frustrating when you have a car you can easily take into Q3," he said.
The FIA published the starting weights of the cars in the hours after qualifying, showing that Hamilton's dominance was not influenced by a particularly light fuel load.
The Briton is carrying marginally less fuel than the Red Bulls, but the Brawns are actually slightly lighter than Hamilton.
"Both of us (Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber) are a little bit surprised by the gap," Red Bull's Vettel said, referring to Hamilton's Q3 advantage of more than 6 tenths.
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article