Davide Valsecchi took pole position for the GP2 season opener in Malaysia as DAMS picked up where it left off with Romain Grosjean in 2011.
The Italian, who has taken the seat vacated by reigning champion Grosjean following the Frenchman's graduation to Formula 1, moved to the lead of the times early in the session and was never headed.
His position at the top came under threat from Arden's Luiz Razia in the closing stages, but the Brazilian came across the line 0.06sec shy of pole after being delayed by Fabrizio Crestani in the final corner.
Max Chilton was rewarded for waiting for the track to be relatively empty during the middle part of the session as he set the third fastest time for Carlin, and he will be joined on the second row by Stefano Coletti (Coloni).
Razia was not the only driver to lose his chance of pole in the final corner. Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer already had a time on the board within 0.1sec of Valsecchi when he appeared on course to better that, but the Swiss driver had a huge moment in the final corner triggered by a lock-up, which ruined his lap.
Leimer had to settle for fifth, just ahead of standout rookie James Calado for Lotus GP/ART. Free practice pacesetter Jolyon Palmer (iSport) took a solid seventh, while Giedo van der Garde's prediction that Caterham Racing would start the season slightly adrift of the pace proved true as he took eighth.
Rookies Fabio Onidi (Coloni) and Felipe Nasr (DAMS) both impressed to get into the top 10, while further down the field there were some surprises for fancied title contenders.
Esteban Gutierrez paid a hefty price for being 0.6sec off the pace and will line up 15th for Lotus, while Marcus Ericsson, who along with iSport teammate Palmer appeared to be on a different tire strategy to most of the field, could only set a time good enough for 20th.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Davide Valsecchi DAMS 1m45.494s
2. Luiz Razia Arden 1m45.554s + 0.060s
3. Max Chilton Carlin 1m45.558s + 0.064s
4. Stefano Coletti Coloni 1m45.577s + 0.083s
5. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1m45.588s + 0.094s
6. James Calado Lotus 1m45.638s + 0.144s
7. Jolyon Palmer iSport 1m45.758s + 0.264s
8. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m45.773s + 0.279s
9. Fabio Onidi Coloni 1m45.810s + 0.316s
10. Felipe Nasr DAMS 1m45.942s + 0.448s
11. Johnny Cecotto Jr Addax 1m46.012s + 0.518s
12. Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus 1m46.138s + 0.644s
13. Stephane Richelmi Trident 1m46.150s + 0.656s
14. Josef Kral Addax 1m46.160s + 0.666s
15. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus 1m46.186s + 0.692s
16. Tom Dillmann Rapax 1m46.264s + 0.770s
17. Rio Haryanto Carlin 1m46.392s + 0.898s
18. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 1m46.428s + 0.934s
19. Nigel Melker Ocean 1m46.489s + 0.995s
20. Marcus Ericsson iSport 1m46.557s + 1.063s
21. Jon Lancaster Ocean 1m46.662s + 1.168s
22. Julian Leal Trident 1m46.868s + 1.374s
23. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham 1m46.962s + 1.468s
24. Simon Trummer Arden 1m47.004s + 1.510s
25. Ricardo Teixeira Rapax 1m48.113s + 2.619s
26. Giancarlo Serenlli Lazarus 1m49.620s + 4.126s