Lewis Hamilton claimed his second consecutive pole position after edging out Jenson Button on Saturday in Malaysia. As in Australia, McLaren secured a lock-out of the front row but they don't boast the kind of advantage as a week ago, with four tenths of a second covering the top eight cars in Q3.
The final ten minutes followed a similar pattern to Melbourne with Hamilton throwing down the gauntlet on his first flying lap as Button struggled to match him. Hamilton's 1:36.219 came despite a heavy lock-up at the final corner while Button established himself in second ahead of Q2 pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen.
After struggling to get out of Q2, Mercedes opted to do a single run in the final session but Michael Schumacher make good use of it to join Hamilton on the front row, with Nico Rosberg three tenths further back in fourth, but McLaren, Lotus and Red Bull still had another run left.
Button saved his best lap of the weekend for last to take second while Mark Webber was the quickest Red Bull once again, albeit slower than Schumacher in fourth. Teammate Sebastian Vettel appeared to realise early on that he wouldn't have the speed to take pole and chose to qualify on the prime tyre. He managed to drag the RB7 up to sixth but with fifth-placed Raikkonen taking a penalty for a gearbox change, Vettel will move up a place.
Romain Grosjean was seventh fastest in the Lotus while Rosberg underperformed in Q3 once again, languishing down in eighth while Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari some cheer by getting into the top ten. The Spaniard will line-up eighth, just in front of Sergio Perez and the unfortunate Raikkonen.
After their promising Melbourne form, Williams were disappointed to see both drivers knocked out in Q2. Pastor Maldonado's exit was partly down to an off at turn ten on his first run, leaving him with damaged bargeboards for his final effort which was only good enough for 11th. Bruno Senna was 13th, just behind fellow countryman Felipe Massa. Paul di Resta took the honours at Force India after qualifying 14th, two places ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, while Daniel Ricciardo was 15th and Kamui Kobayashi a subdued 17th.
Jean-Eric Vergne was left to rue a mistake on his option tyre run as he joined Caterham, Marussia and HRT in the Q1 drop zone. The Frenchman locked up heavily under braking for turn one and couldn't pull himself out of danger with his tyres no longer offering their best grip. This came as a huge relief for Massa who had only escaped from the bottom seven himself moments earlier.