Championship contender Nico Rosberg beat his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to pole position at the Suzuka International Circuit.
Rosberg had set the pace in Q2 and on the first runs in the top ten shootout. The Silver Arrows driver then secured his place in top spot by shaving just over a tenth off his time on his second run.
After Rosberg crossed the line for the final time, Hamilton completed his lap but a lock-up at the hairpin cost him and he ended up two tenths slower.
This mean that both of Rosberg’s flying laps in Q3 were good enough for what could prove to be an important pole position in the world championship battle.
The Williams pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa lock out the second row, with Fernando Alonso taking his usual slot of fifth for Ferrari.
As for Red Bull, this was a difficult session. Daniel Ricciardo ended up sixth despite on the edge of elimination in Q1, while Sebastian Vettel was only ninth. Both drivers carrying wet set-ups in anticipation of a rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix.
Kevin Magnussen won the intra-McLaren duel by beating Jenson Button to seventh position, with Kimi Raikkonen rounding up the top ten.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest of those to be eliminated in Q2 in P11, falling two tenths short of relegating Vettel with his final lap.
Despite this, Vergne is still ahead of Force India driver Sergio Perez, who complained of a power problem during Q2. Vergne’s Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat will start in P13 after failing to improve on his second run.
Because of breaking into his sixth power unit, Vergne is set to be hit with a ten-place grid penalty for the race.
Nico Hulkenberg will start in P14 and edged out both Saubers of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.
Pastor Maldonado was bumped out of Q2 contention in the final seconds of the first part of qualifying by Sutil.
The Lotus driver, will drop back ever further on the grid thanks to using his sixth V6 engine of the season. He was less than a tenth second off his team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Because Maldonado is only able to serve five of his ten-place grid drop, the remaining positions will be rolled over to next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson’s strong weekend continued, as he ended qualifying P19 ahead of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi.
As for home hero Kamui Kobayashi, whose Friday afternoon session was ruined by a crash, the Japanese ended up in P21 ahead of Max Chilton.
So another Silver Arrows one-two with Nico Rosberg achieving his twelfth career pole position. He now equals his pole position record with Gerhard Berger and David Coulthard.
Qualifying positions, Japanese Grand Prix:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m32.506s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m32.703s
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m33.128s
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m33.527s
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m33.740s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m34.075s
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.242s
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.317s
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/-Renault 1m34.432s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m34.542s 2.036s
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m34.984s
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m35.089s
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m35.092s
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m35.099s
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.364s
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.681s
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m35.984s
18 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m36.813s
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1m36.943s
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1m37.015s
21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1m37.481s
22 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 1m35.917s