GP2 Series veteran Davide Valsecchi claimed the first pole position of the season at Sepang in Malaysia in a closely-faught session.
The DAMS driver recorded his fastest time early on in the 30 minute session. Max Chilton came close in the middle of the session, but fell 0.064 seconds shy. He was pipped for second on the grid by Luiz Razia, who was 0.060 behind his former teammate Valsecchi.
Stefano Coletti and Fabio Leimer also both came within a tenth of pole position, and will line up fourth and fifth respectively on the grid.
James Calado qualified well for his championship debut in sixth, just ahead of fellow Brit and practice pacesetter Jolyon Palmer. Caterham's Giedo van der Garde took eighth place on the grid, ahead of Fabio Onidi and debutant Felipe Nasr.
Onidi though will start from 12th on the grid after being handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Rodolfo Gonzalez in qualifying.
That means that Johnny Cecotto will share the fifth row of the grid with Nasr, with Fabrizio Crestani lining up just ahead of Onidi as the Venezuela GP Lazarus team make their debut.
Stephane Richelmi qualified 13th, just ahead of Josef Kral. Title favourite Esteban Gutierrez was a lowly 15th, perhaps as a result of missing much of the practice session following a collision with Cecotto.
Main series debutants Tom Dillmann, Rio Haryanto, Nathanael Berthon and Nigel Melker will line up next, with Marcus Ericsson another disappointed title contender down in 20th place.
TCF blogger Jon Lancaster will start his first GP2 race from 21st on the grid, which is completed by Julian Leal, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Simon Trummer, Ricardo Teixiera and Giancarlo Serenelli.