Sebastian Vettel continued his dominance of the Indian Grand Prix weekend by securing the 35th pole position of his Formula One career.
After winning the last three races to take up the lead in the world title battle, Vettel is on course to extend that advantage should he score a second successive victory at the Buddh International Circuit.
The 24-year-old German, quickest in all three practice sessions, edged out Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber by just 0.044 seconds, nailing his second flying lap in the top-10 shoot-out after making an error on his first run.
It is the first time in Red Bull’s history they have managed to lock out the front row of the grid for three consecutive races.
Behind the Red Bulls will be the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the former a quarter of a second behind Vettel.
For Fernando Alonso, trailing Vettel by six points in the standings, the Spaniard will have to fight his way through as he starts fifth in his Ferrari followed by team-mate Felipe Massa.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, still in with an outside chance of the title, lines up seventh in his Lotus, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez a superb eighth.
Pastor Maldonado, who was fastest at the end of the first session in his Williams, starts ninth, with Nico Rosberg 10th for Mercedes.
A slight mistake in Q2 cost Romain Grosjean dear as the Frenchman missed out on a place in the top 10 by 0.025secs to Massa.
The Lotus driver will start 11th ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, with team-mate Paul Di Resta a lowly 16th, his worst grid slot since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In between the duo are Williams’ Bruno Senna, Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, whilst Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi finished a staggering 1.2secs down on team-mate Perez and starts 17th.
Jean-Eric Vergne, out-qualified by Toro Rosso team-mate Ricciardo for the 14th time this season, will start 18th ahead of the Caterhams, Marussias and HRTs.
Vitaly Petrov will line up in front of Heikki Kovalainen, the Finn beaching his Caterham in the gravel at the death in Q1 as he attempted to at least get ahead of the Russian.
Marussia duo Timo Glock and Charles Pic will start 21st and 24th, sandwiching HRT pair Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan, the latter in his home grand prix and avoiding the final grid slot.
Vettel hailed his weekend as "great" so far, but knows his work is far from done going into the race.
“We’ve had no problems with the car, the boys have been pushing hard, and we’ve had lots of feedback from the factory from yesterday to today,” said Vettel.
“The best chance of doing well is focusing on every single step. Today was qualifying, we got a good result and now we concentrate on the race.”
With title rival Alonso four places behind him, Vettel added: “We know a lot of things can happen in the race, so it doesn’t mean a lot. I’m just very happy to start on pole.”
Webber knows he missed out on an opportunity for pole, but lacked pace on his second run as he failed to get heat into his tyres.
Webber said: “As Seb mentioned, it wasn’t the smoothest session for him, and the same for me, with the last lap not being the cleanest, which was disappointing.
“I did my best, and it was a close run thing between Seb and I, but I am surprised to end up second so I’ll take that.
“It’s very good for us, and the way the factory has helped us has been incredible. Even though they’re not here in person, they’re here in terms of work ethic.”
Hamilton believes he can push the Red Bulls in the race, despite lacking the pace to beat them in qualifying.
“The team did a great job with trying to set up the car,” said Hamilton. “We were not quick enough to be ahead of these guys today, but we can definitely challenge them in the race because our race pace is definitely as good as them.”