Mark Webber claimed his second consecutive pole position by holding off a surprise challenge from Lewis Hamilton in German Grand Prix qualifying.
After McLaren's low-key practice form, the team had not been expecting to challenge for pole position, but Hamilton turned out to be the biggest threat to Webber and Red Bull.
World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will start only third for his home race – the first time all year he has been off the front row. Silverstone winner Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) had to settle for fourth this time.
Webber looked unbeatable throughout Q3, producing a 1m30.251s on his first run and then improving to 1m30.079s to put himself out of everyone's reach. Hamilton was third after the first runs, was briefly pushed down to fourth by Alonso, but then blasted to second with a lap only 0.055sec down on Webber.
Vettel's second effort was not quick enough to reclaim the outside front row spot, while Alonso was 0.4s off the pole pace as he took fourth, half a second clear of his fifth-placed Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa.
Nico Rosberg only required on Q3 run to put his Mercedes in sixth, ahead of Jenson Button, who was a second away from McLaren teammate Hamilton.
Adrian Sutil reached Q3 for his home race and gave Force India eighth place, ahead of Renault's Vitaly Petrov and national hero Michael Schumacher in the second Mercedes.
Nick Heidfeld and Paul di Resta could not match their Renault and Force India team-mates' progress into Q2 so will share row six, ahead of the Williams duo, with Pastor Maldonado outqualifying Rubens Barrichello by 0.4sec.
After three start 18th places in qualifying, Jaime Alguersuari finally got beyond Q1 again, though he only made it as high as 17th, just behind Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Buemi. The pair were sandwiched by the Saubers, with Sergio Perez in 15th and Kamui Kobayashi the big gun eliminated in Q1.
Karun Chandhok got within 0.823sec of Lotus teammate Heikki Kovalainen, though the Indian could not prevent Virgin's Timo Glock sneaking between the Lotus duo.
Daniel Ricciardo showed highly encouraging pace in his second grand prix qualifying session as he was only 0.025sec adrift of Hispania teammate Tonio Liuzzi on the back row, and he will start ahead of the Italian in any case due to Liuzzi's gearbox change penalty.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1n30.079s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1n30.134s + 0.055
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1n30.216s + 0.137
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1n30.442s + 0.363
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1n30.910s + 0.831
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1n31.263s + 1.184
7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1n31.288s + 1.209
8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1n32.010s + 1.931
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1n32.187s + 2.108
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1n32.482s + 2.403
Q2 cut-off time: 1m33.180s Gap **
11. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m32.215s + 1.217
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m32.560s + 1.562
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m32.635s + 1.637
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m33.043s + 2.045
15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.176s + 2.178
16. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.546s + 2.548
17. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.698s + 2.700
Q1 cut-off time: 1m33.664s Gap *
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.786s + 1.960
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m35.599s + 3.773
20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.400s + 4.574
21. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1m36.422s + 4.596
22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.641s + 4.815
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m37.011s + 5.185
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m37.036s + 5.210
107% time: 1m38.253s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2