Sebastian Vettel swept to the 13th pole position of his dominant 2011 season with another commanding performance in qualifying for Formula 1's inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver was quickest in Q2, and carried that form into Q3 with a 1m24.437s provisional pole on his first flying lap. No one managed to beat that, but Vettel improved to 1m24.178s anyway to firmly cement his pole.
It will be an all-Red Bull front row, as although Lewis Hamilton was second quickest for McLaren, his three-place penalty for a yellow flag infringement in practice will drop him to fifth and elevate Mark Webber from third to second.
Fernando Alonso was just 0.011sec down on Webber in the top Ferrari, with Jenson Button next up for McLaren.
Felipe Massa took sixth on the grid despite crashing right at the end of Q3 when he smashed his suspension over a curb then skated off into the gravel at the next corner.
Nico Rosberg was seventh for Mercedes, while the remaining Q3 men all chose to sit out the segment to save tyres. Adrian Sutil was classified eighth in the only Force India to make it to Q3, with his teammate Paul di Resta in 13th. Both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi also reached Q3 but Toro Rosso opted not to run.
Toro Rosso's strong performance squeezed some likely top 10 names outside the Q3 cut. Neither Lotus Renault made it – Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna will start back in 11th and 15th, although Petrov could consider himself unlucky as he equaled 10th-placed Alguersuari's Q2 time but the Spaniard got there first. Petrov is carrying a five-place grid penalty for colliding with Michael Schumacher in Korea in any case.
Schumacher also narrowly missed out, the Mercedes driver missing Q3 by 0.018sec as he qualified 12th. The two Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello sandwiched Senna in 14th and 16th.
It was a tough qualifying for Sauber. Sergio Perez was only 17th and will take a three-place penalty anyway for the same misdemeanor as Hamilton, while Kamui Kobayashi was eliminated in Q1 – a fate that could have befallen either Button or Schumacher had they not squeezed out strong late laps amid traffic.
HRT's Narain Karthikeyan qualified ahead of both Virgins for his home race, and will gain another position from his teammate Daniel Ricciardo taking a gearbox penalty. Another gearbox fault meant Virgin's Timo Glock was firmly slowest.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.178s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.474s + 0.296
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m24.508s + 0.330
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.519s + 0.341
5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.950s + 0.772
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.122s + 0.944
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.451s + 1.273
8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Q2 cut-off time: 1m26.319s Gap **
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m26.319s + 1.662
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.337s + 1.680
13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m26.503s + 1.846
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m26.537s + 1.880
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m26.651s + 1.994
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m27.247s + 2.590
17. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.562s + 2.905
Q1 cut-off time: 1m27.479s Gap *
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.876s + 1.687
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m28.565s + 2.376
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m28.752s + 2.563
21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m30.216s + 4.027
22. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m30.238s + 4.049
23. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m30.866s + 4.677
24. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m34.046s + 7.857
107% time: 1m32.222s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2