Championship contender Nico Rosberg achieved his ninth pole position of the Formula 1 season by edging out Lewis Hamilton at the Circuit of the Americas.
The Mercedes driver outpaced his team-mate by 0.376 seconds thanks to a superb final Q3 lap.
Rosberg had the advantage over Hamilton during the first runs in Q3, and he improved by just over two tenths on his second attempt to consolidate P1.
Hamilton was behind Rosberg on the track, so still had his lap to complete, but was unable to improve despite setting the fastest final sector seen in qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas beat team-mate Felipe Massa by three tenths as Williams took the second row, while Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo making a big improvement on his final run to grab fifth.
Fernando Alonso was sixth for Ferrari ahead of Jenson Button, although the McLaren driver has to serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Kevin Magnussen will benefit over his team-mate’s penalty despite being eighth quickest. At least he edged out Kimi Raikkonen by a tenth of a second.
While Adrian Sutil made it through to Q3, the first time a Sauber has reached the top ten shoot out this season.
Thanks to the absence of Caterham and Marussia – due to the financial crisis hitting these two teams – only four drivers were eliminated in each of the first two stages of qualifying.
Pastor Maldonado narrowly missed out on his first Q3 appearance, ending up P11 after losing an estimated two tenths of a second with a slide in the penultimate corner.
Behind him, Sergio Perez jumped Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg with his final flying lap to take P12.
Daniil Kvyat complained of tyre temperature problems after his out-lap was compromised by traffic and could only manage P14.
He will also be hit with a ten-place penalty for changing a power unit component, some of which must now be carried over to next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Jean-Eric Vergne missed out on making Q2 by just five hundredths of a second, the Toro Rosso driver ending up in P15 ahead of Esteban Gutierrez.
Sebastian Vettel, who completed a single run on soft tyres as he will start from the pits after a sixth power unit was fitted to his Red Bull, was P17.
Romain Grosjean was slowest having made a mistake on his sole lap on his final run, locking up the front-left wheel under braking for the left-hander at the end of the back straight and running off the track.
But even so, the Lotus driver suspected he would have been unable to advance to the next stage of qualifying because his car was not as competitive as it was during free practice.
So advantage Nico Rosberg at the United States Grand Prix. His 13th career pole position. Can he turn his championship around with race victory over Lewis Hamilton? Sunday’s race is going to be fascinating.
Qualifying positions at the Circuit of the Americas:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.067s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m36.443s
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m36.906s
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m37.205s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m37.244s
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.610s
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.706s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m37.804s
9 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.810s
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1m38.467s
11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m38.554s
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.655s*
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m38.598s
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m39.250s
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.555s
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m39.679s
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.699s**
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.621s***
*Five-place penalty for gearbox change
**Five-place penalty for engine component change
***Pitlane start for taking sixth power unit