Sebastian Vettel achieved his 45th career pole position in Formula 1 despite the wet conditions at Interlagos, Sao Paulo.
The 2013 world champion took the top spot by a margin of six tenths of a second over rival Nico Rosberg. A clear sign of his dominance this season.
The Red Bull Racing driver was in flying form in an Q3 session delayed by 47 minutes due to intense rainfall.
Although Romain Grosjean briefly held provisional pole by taking on intermediates before anyone else, Vettel’s first lap on that rubber put him 1.1 seconds clear of all his rivals.
Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso were left to battle for second position, with the Mercedes eventually taking it and reducing Vettel’s advantage to 0.623 seconds.
Third was still an excellent result for Alonso given Ferrari’s recent form, as he held off Mark Webber by 0.063s seconds.
Lewis Hamilton was half a second off team-mate Rosberg’s pace in fifth, while Grosjean tumble down to sixth for Lotus.
Toro Rosso starred in the wet conditions and got both cars into Q3. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will share row four, beating Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber.
Conditions had fluctuated through both Q1 and Q2, with the latter getting ever wetter.
That meant early times largely stood, except for Hulkenberg who managing to jump into tenth at the expense of Heikki Kovalainen, who missed out by 0.015 seconds.
Both Force Indias, McLarens and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas departed in Q2.
Despite crashing on the exit of the right-hander following Descida do Lago, Sergio Perez still managed to out-qualify Jenson Button to P14.
Q1 appeared to be following a similar pattern until a late improvement in track conditions allowed Vergne to escape the drop-zone.
That pushed Pastor Maldonado onto the elimination list, along with Esteban Gutierrez, the Caterhams and the Marussias, with Charles Pic ‘best of the rest’ by half a second.
So yet another qualifying masterclass from the four-time world champion. Can Sebastian Vettel score nine consecutive victories on race day? Or will we see his Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber winning in his final Formula 1 race. It’s going to be a fascinating Brazilian Grand Prix.
Qualifying times from Interlagos:
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.479s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m27.102s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m27.539s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m27.572s
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.677s
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m27.737s
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.052s
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.081s
9. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.109s
10. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.582s
11. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m27.456s
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m27.798s
13. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m27.954s
14. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.269s
15. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.308s
16. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m28.586s
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m27.367s
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.445s
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m27.843s
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m28.320s
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m28.366s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m28.950s
107 per cent time: 1m31.315s