Fernando Alonso has taken a crucial pole at the Singapore Grand Prix after a superb performance by the Spaniard in final qualifying.
The Ferrari man beat Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who qualified second and third respectively.
Also trailing in Alonso's wake was defending champion Jenson Button, who qualified forth and current championship leader Mark Webber, who could only manage to qualify his Red Bull in fifth.
However it was a bittersweet day for Ferrari after Felipe Massa stopped in qualifying one with a gearbox problem and will start tomorrow's race last.
In a very humid qualifying session it was Alonso who shone, however his session didn't go without problems. The Spaniard was forced to pit in the second qualifying session after a problem with the engine mapping which limited Alonso to one flying lap.
Sebastian Vettel, who has seven poles already this season, could not beat either of Fernando Alonso's fastest laps.
Earlier in the weekend Alonso, who said pole was '90%' of the race in Singapore, is prepared for an unpredictable race.
“We know how important it is to be on pole in a street circuit but we know anything can happen – safety cars, the start, the rain, many factors and we need to control all of them.”
However, Alonso was very happy with his pole in a 'hard' session. “Obviously, as you saw, it was not an easy qualifying session. We had very little time to race in dry conditions; it seemed to remain damp here throughout.”
“We were not 100% confident on some of the corners in practice, but by the time Q3 came about, I could push harder and both my tyres worked really well. I was quite happy with my lap, I didn’t know if it was good enough for pole but we got 100% out of the car today.” The Spaniard said.
Second placed Vettel was happy despite his “messy” Saturday, but hopes for a strong race day.
“It was a pretty messy qualifying for us. I never really got into the rhythm,” Vettel admitted.
“I got a little bit of traffic, just didn’t get it into one lap as I did in qualifying. In the first run I misjudged the gap to the car ahead. After four or five corners I was already in the back of Michael. Second run, I had a good lap, in sector two turns 11, 12, 13 I slightly hit the wall in that section and lost some time. I could make it up in sector three, but not enough.”
“I think we had the car to be on pole. But we are on the front row and have a quick car and we should have a strong race.”
Title rival Lewis Hamilton was also in a confident mood. “It was not such a bad qualifying session, I can’t really complain. I am on the right side of the grid, the car is working well and hopefully that continues into tomorrow and puts us in a good position,” said the Brit.
Team-mate Button was also confident. “Fourth isn't too bad; we're a lot closer to the Red Bulls than we feared we might be. The Ferrari looks quick, but I'm reasonably happy – much happier than I was after my qualifying here last year.”
“For tomorrow, the start will be the key. My aim will be to pass Sebastian [Vettel]. The Red Bulls' pace off the line hasn't been great recently, and I also think we can have a good race because our pace on high fuel has looked good around here.”
Red Bull's Mark Webber admitted to struggling to find a rhythm, much like his team mate. “I knew the front row was going to be very competitive today,” said the championship leader.
“I don't think I could have done a lap to get on the front row; so it could be worse, but it could be better. We will keep hanging in there as it’s a long race tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. I was having trouble getting the rhythm around here; there are a few places where I know I lost time on most of my laps because I wasn’t fast enough.”
Qualifying one started with Felipe Massa hitting problems after his car stopped on circuit causing a red flag.
When the session re-started Alonso hit the top of the timesheets, ahead of both Red Bull's, confirming Ferrari's pace.
Along with Massa, Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas Di Grassi all dropped out along with the two Hispania drivers, the returning Christian Klien and Bruno Senna.
Qualifying two was incident packed as Alonso was restricted to one flying lap after a problem and Vitaly Petrov hit the wall at turn 5 putting him out.
At the front, Hamilton briefly held the fastest ever lap around the Marina Bay Circuit with a 1.46.042, despite being on the hard tyre. However, the returning Alonso took that mantel with a 1.45.8 before Vettel finished the session with a 1.45.561 on the soft tyres.
Force India and Toro Rosso were disappointed after both drivers dropped out in qualifying two. Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld joined them.
Nick Heidfeld's team mate, Kamui Kobayashi, qualified tenth behind Michael Schumacher in ninth. It's the German's first top ten qualifying since Silverstone in July.
Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica were disappointed with seventh and eight respectively, however it was Rubens Barrichello who impressed to qualify sixth, behind the top five title chargers.
Sebastian Vettel missed the golden opportunity to take the pole position at the death after he brushed the wall on his second flying lap.
Nevertheless, Alonso's two superb laps were enough to earn him a pole he deserved.