Sebastian Vettel today became a Formula One record-breaker as the pole magician conjured up the 15th of his phenomenal season ahead of tomorrow’s finale in Brazil.
Double world champion Vettel was again in a class of his own over one lap in the final qualifying session of the year at Interlagos.
The 24-year-old German now possesses the record for outright number of poles in a single season after matching the previous best mark of 14, posted by Nigel Mansell in 1992, two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.
Underlining Red Bull’s superiority, Mark Webber managed to lock out the front row for the team, finishing 0.117secs behind Vettel.
All the McLarens could manage was third and fourth, albeit with Jenson Button out-qualifying Lewis Hamilton for the seventh time this year - the latter half a second behind Vettel.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, as he expected, was fifth ahead of Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes, who has the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa behind him.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil, in what was almost certainly his last qualifying session for the team ahead of an anticipated move to Williams, was a superb eighth.
Bruno Senna, who is expected to make way for Romain Grosjean next season, was ninth in his Renault, out-qualifying Vitaly Petrov for the fifth time in eight races, with Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher 10th.
At the start of the 15-minute Q2, and with the threat of rain in the air, all 17 drivers involved set off on the faster soft tyres.
Senna proved to be the fly in the ointment for Paul di Resta as an expected top-10 grid slot did not materialise for the Scot courtesy of the Brazilian performing superbly in the middle session.
Di Resta starts 11th in his Force India ahead of another Brazilian in Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, who potentially competes in his last grand prix tomorrow.
Jaime Alguersuari out-qualified Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Buemi for the 13th time this season, while Petrov starts a lowly 15th ahead of Sauber pair Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.
Williams’ Pastor Maldonado was totally overshadowed by Barrichello, the Venezuelan finishing half a second down on his team-mate at the end of the opening 20-minute Q1.
Maldonado will line up 18th ahead of Lotus pair Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, with Hispania duo Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo in 21st and 22nd.
It is not the way Virgin Racing will have wanted to end the season as they occupy the back row for the first time this year, with Jerome D’Ambrosio edging out Timo Glock for only the fourth time.
Asked about his emotions in claiming the record, Vettel said: ``It's difficult. There had been quite some talk before qualifying about this particular record, but it was best not to think about it at all.
“So I was enjoying the moment, enjoying the laps, and I put everything into the last lap.
“It was very emotional when I crossed the line because I knew I had given it my all.
“I then had to wait quite a time to see if it was good enough or not.
“It took the master in Nigel Mansell a few races less (16), but in the end it’s really special and different to other poles.”
Webber, still chasing his first win of the year, believes he can do that tomorrow.
“Today’s qualifying went well, the whole weekend we’ve looked strong, so I have to keep the heat on Seb,” said Webber.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t look after Nige (Mansell) today and get pole, but we can look forward to the race.”
For Button, it was the first time he has qualified in the top 10 in Brazil for six years, so the Englishman was happy enough.
“It’s the last race and I want to end on a high,” said Button.
“I’m just enjoying the moment and hopefully we can get these two (Vettel and Webber) tomorrow.
“But whatever happens it’s been a great season, but just not good enough to match Sebastian.”