Nico Rosberg upset the formbook by claiming pole position for Mercedes in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying at Sakhir.
Mercedes had not looked like an outright front-runner during practice, but Rosberg set a banker 1m32.4s lap at the start of Q3 and it proved impossible to beat.
Sebastian Vettel got closest for Red Bull with a 1m32.584s, just ahead of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Rosberg then made his pole absolutely certain, improving to 1m32.330s to clinch the top spot by over 0.2 second. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was 0.4sec slower in fourth place. He will lose five places, however, for having a gearbox change prior to the session.
Fifth position will also change post-session. Mark Webber took the spot for Red Bull, but faces a three-place penalty for his collision with Jean-Eric Vergne in China.
Ferrari put Felipe Massa on hard tires for Q3 and he took sixth place, followed by the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil. The latter only just made it into Q3 with a late charge.
Friday pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen was only ninth in his Lotus.
McLaren was ecstatic to see Jenson Button reach Q3 against expectations with a last-gasp lap. The Briton chose not to do a flying lap in the pole shootout.
The late Q2 improvements pushed Romain Grosjean's Lotus down to 11th. The Frenchman was back in the pits at the end of the segment and his first lap had not been good enough.
The two Williams set exactly equal 1m34.425s laps in Q1, but Valtteri Bottas had got there first, so he made it to Q2 – where he took 15th – while Pastor Maldonado was left in 17th.
Esteban Gutierrez's troubles continued as he only managed 18th in qualifying, which will become last when his five-place penalty for crashing into Sutil in China is applied.
There was a change in form at the back. Driving the upgraded Caterham, Charles Pic got his team ahead of Marussia for the first time in 2013, as he beat Jules Bianchi by a full 0.9sec.
Giedo van der Garde, in the older-spec Caterham, also outqualified a Marussia, pushing Max Chilton down to 22nd.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m32.330s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m32.584s + 0.254s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m32.667s + 0.337s
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m32.762s + 0.432s
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m33.078s + 0.748s
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m33.207s + 0.877s
7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m33.235s + 0.905s
8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m33.246s + 0.916s
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m33.327s + 0.997s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
Q2 cut-off time: 1m33.702s Gap **
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m33.762s + 1.016s
12. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.914s + 1.168s
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.974s + 1.228s
14. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.976s + 1.230s
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m34.105s + 1.359s
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.284s + 1.538s
Q1 cut-off time: 1m34.425s Gap *
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m34.425s + 1.547s
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m34.730s + 1.852s
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m35.283s + 2.405s
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m36.178s + 3.300s
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m36.304s + 3.426s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m36.476s + 3.598s
107% time: 1m39.379s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2