Sebastian Vettel made the most of a drying track to beat Red Bull teammate Mark Webber to pole for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Damp conditions for the delayed remainder of qualifying raised hopes of a mixed-up grid, but in the end the pole shootout took place on slicks on a nearly dry circuit, and it was the champion team that prevailed.
Vettel put himself a second and a half ahead of the field with his 1m27.407s lap when he produced it. Webber looked poised to beat it until a mistake at the penultimate corner left him 0.42sec adrift. Vettel was improving further on his next lap before pitting when it became clear he was unbeatable.
Lewis Hamilton kickstarted Mercedes' season with third on the grid, 0.6sec off Vettel's pace. That was three places higher than teammate Nico Rosberg, despite the German having been the class of the field when the track was wet. He comfortably topped Q2, having also flown in Saturday's Q1.
The Ferraris split the Mercedes, Felipe Massa outqualifying teammate Fernando Alonso by 0.003sec to grab fourth place.
Row four will be filled by the Lotus pair, Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Romain Grosjean.
Paul di Resta got as high as second for Force India early in Q3 when intermediates were still the best choice. But on slicks he was pushed back to ninth, ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, the first man to come out on dry tires in the pole segment.
Several drivers had tried slicks in the final minutes of Q2, but this move proved premature. While Button immediately returned to intermediates, his teammate Sergio Perez persisted with slicks and found himself 15th on the grid for his McLaren debut.
Having looked a likely top-five man on intermediates, the slick move left Jean-Eric Vergne only 13th, albeit ahead of inter-shod Toro Rosso teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas discovered slicks made no difference to Williams's plight in 16th, while Nico Hulkenberg's Sauber and Adrian Sutil's Force India had the right tires but were still squeezed back to row six.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m27.407s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m27.827s + 0.420s
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m28.087s + 0.680s
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.490s + 1.083s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m28.493s + 1.086s
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.523s + 1.116s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m28.738s + 1.331s
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 1m29.013s + 1.606s
9. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m29.305s + 1.898s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m30.357s + 2.950s
Q2 cut-off time: 1m37.641s Gap **
11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.067s + 1.873s
12. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m38.134s + 1.940s
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.778s + 2.584s
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.042s + 2.848s
15. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.900s + 3.706s
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m40.290s + 4.096s
17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m37.593s + 2.024s
Q1 cut-off time: 1m47.330s Gap *
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m47.614s + 4.234s
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m47.776s + 4.396s
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.147s + 4.767s
20. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.909s + 5.529s
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m49.519s + 6.139s
22. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m50.626s + 7.246s
107% time: 1m50.636s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2