Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix with a brilliant lap of 1m46.362s, ahead of Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.
It was the 24th pole of the McLaren driver's Formula 1 career, and the third in four races, as he put down the rising challenge of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who had set the pace throughout the weekend until qualifying.
It wasn't all plain sailing for the Briton, who brushed the wall on his quick lap – although apparently without damage.
But it won't be the World Champion Vettel that starts the grand prix at Marina Bay on the front row, as was expected, but Spanish Grand Prix winner Maldonado, who delivered a stunning (and surprising) lap to go second fastest ahead of Vettel.
Jenson Button was fourth fastest ahead of points' leader Fernando Alonso and Paul di Resta in the rapid Force India. Mark Webber was seventh fastest for the moment, but that may change as the Australian is under investigation for allegedly impeding Timo Glock during Q1.
Romain Grosjean, with what might have constituted the scruffiest lap of the season, was eighth fastest ahead of the two Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, who both declined to set a lap time in Q3.
Grosjean, having set the fastest time of all in Q1, also tapped the wall with the rear of the car at Turn 14 at the beginning of Q2. The Lotus driver bounced back from his shunt though to go fourth fastest in Q2, behind Hamilton, Vettel and Webber.
He wasn't the only one in the wall in that session. Bruno Senna hit the retainers at the penultimate corner, the same place he'd brushed in Q1, but this time he damaged his suspension and, unlike the Frenchman, would take no further part. It was the third time the Brazilian had been in the barrier over the weekend, and he starts Sunday's race 17th.
Joining Senna on the Q2 fail list, but obviously starting ahead of him, were Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Massa in particular might have expected to progress further, but late laps from the Mercedes duo put paid to their hopes.
With speculation surrounding Vitaly Petrov's future at Caterham, he put in a tremendous effort in Q1. For most of it he looked like he might outqualify Toro Rosso's Vergne and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi on merit to move into the second session.
But both of those drivers would eventually move ahead of the Russian, who lines up 20th for the race ahead of his teammate Heikki Kovalainen, as the Toro Rossos injected some super-soft pace at the crucial moment (Ricciardo was seventh fastest overall in Q1!).
Kobayashi dropped out early as he was already in the pits when the Toro Rossos fired up the afterburners. Also worth mentioning was the fact that Narain Karthikeyan outqualified HRT teammate Pedro de la Rosa for the second time in a row, and by nearly a second, as the pair occupied the last row of the grid.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.362s
2. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m46.804s + 0.442
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m46.905s + 0.543
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.939s + 0.577
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m47.216s + 0.854
6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m47.241s + 0.879
7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m47.475s + 1.113
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m47.788s + 1.426
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m47.943s Gap **
11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m47.975s + 1.310
12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m48.261s + 1.596
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m48.344s + 1.679
14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m48.505s + 1.840
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.774s + 2.109
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.849s + 2.184
17. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault no time
Q1 cut-off time: 1m49.809s Gap *
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m49.933s + 2.245
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m50.846s + 3.158
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m51.137s + 3.449
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.370s + 3.682
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.762s + 4.074
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m52.372s + 4.684
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m53.355s + 5.667
107% time: 1m55.226s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2