Felipe Massa clinched a third successive pole position for the Turkish Grand Prix, making the perfect start to his bid for a hat-trick of victories at Istanbul Park.
Massa has reigned supreme on this track for the last two years, and with all three races in Istanbul being won from pole since the track’s debut in 2005, the Brazilian will start a hot favourite for the win.
Behind Massa, who claimed the 12th pole overall of his Formula One career, come the McLaren duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton.
For Kovalainen, racing this weekend after passing a medical in the wake of his 150mph shunt in the Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight ago, it was a superb achievement, with the Finn starting from the highest grid position of his career.
Hamilton at least edged out reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen into fourth as the Briton seeks to close the nine-point gap at the top of the drivers’ standings to the Ferrari star.
Robert Kubica starts fifth for BMW Sauber, followed by Mark Webber in his Red Bull and then Fernando Alonso in his Renault.
Completing the top 10 on the grid will be Jarno Trulli for Toyota, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld – celebrating his 31st birthday today – and David Coulthard in his Red Bull.
With no Super Aguri following the financial collapse earlier this week of the small Japanese privateer, the FIA were forced into a minor revamp for qualifying.
In previous grands prix when there has been a 22-car field, six drivers dropped out at the end of Q1 and Q2.
However, with only 20 cars to line up on the grid from tomorrow, five drivers are now eliminated come the conclusion of the first two sessions.
In this instance, given Super Aguri’s demise, Force India will take up the two slots at the back of the grid which had normally been the preserve of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil had previously struggled for balance and grip in practice, and were clearly unable to correct matters for qualifying.
Kazuki Nakajima will start 16th for Williams, with Nelson Piquet Jnr 17th after wrecking his final hot lap at the end of Q1 by going off track, while Sebastien Bourdais starts 18th in his Toro Rosso.
For the five grid slots ahead of them, Nico Rosberg is 11th in his Williams, followed by the Honda of Rubens Barrichello who tomorrow will set a new grands prix record, competing in his 257th race.
The Brazilian outqualified team-mate Jenson Button for the third time this year, edging out the Briton by 0.079secs.
Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel starts 14th, with Timo Glock 15th for Toyota, although his car suffered a front-right suspension failure towards the end of Q2.