Sebastian Vettel claimed his thirty-third career pole position today in qualifying for the European Grand Prix and in doing so equaled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark. It was also the German’s third pole position in Valencia, and his third of the season.
Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow's race alongside the world champion, whilst Pastor Maldonado – who clearly likes racing in Spain this season – starts from third.
Romain Grosjean joins the Venezuelan on the second row of the grid after qualifying one place ahead of Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg qualifying sixth, seventh and eighth respectively while Jenson Button could qualify only ninth, and will share the tenth row with fellow-Brit Paul di Resta.
The two Ferrari drivers, and Michael Schumacher, all failed to make it into the top-ten shoot-out, whilst Mark Webber was the biggest-name casualty of Q1, and will start from nineteenth tomorrow.
Timo Glock of Marussia missed the qualifying session with a stomach upset.
Pole position exchanged hands four times over the course of Q3. In the early skirmishes, Nico Rosberg was out on top, with a 1:38.623. Only he, Button, Hamilton and Raikkonen put in an early lap time during the final part of qualifying though – the rest bided their time in the garage.
Romain Grosjean, many people's favourite for pole today, came out for his first lap about four minutes before the end of a session, and banged in a 1:38.505 to take provisional pole. The rest of the cars were out on track behind him though, and the Frenchman's position at the top of the timesheets looked precarious.
Pastor Maldonado, who was fastest in Q1, was the first person to beat Grosjean's time with a 1:38.475. It was short-lived glory for the Venezuelan though, as Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position with a lap of 1:38.086.
Lewis Hamilton could not beat Vettel's time, put his 1:38.410 was good enough to join the world champion on the front-row of the Valencia grid.
While Vettel took pole position comfortably by 0.324 seconds, Q2 was a tightly fought affair, with the top seven drivers separated by just 0.1 seconds. Nico Rosberg was the fastest for much of the fifteen minutes of Q2 until Romain Grosjean put in an excellent 1:38.489 towards the end of that session.
It was not such a great fifteen minutes for some other big names though. Fernando Alonso finished Q2 in P11, Felipe Massa was P13, and Michael Schumacher split the two Ferrari drivers in P12.
Bruno Senna will start tomorrow's race next to Massa on row seven. Sergio Perez qualified behind the Brazilian in P15, Heikki Kovalainen was an excellent sixteenth, and Daniel Ricciardo was the slowest driver in Q2, qualifying seventeenth.
Mark Webber, who sat out most of FP3 earlier this morning, came out of the pits with less than six minutes of Q1 remaining in a car that was still far from healthy. He sacrificed a set of soft tyres in his attempt to get through Q2. His first flying lap put him sixteenth on the timesheets – only two places above the drop zone.
As the likes of Bruno Senna propelled themselves up the timesheets, Webber dropped down into P18 place. The Australian's final flying lap was not good enough to get him through to Q2.
Things got worse for Webber when Heikki Kovalainen put in a good final Q1 lap to take P17 and a place in Q2 for Caterham. This knocked Jean-Eric Vergne down to P18 and out of qualifying, and Webber down to P19.
Vitaly Petrov will start tomorrow's race on the same row as Webber in P20. Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan make up an all-HRT row 11, and Charles Pic was the slowest driver in today's session.
If he is well enough, Glock will seek dispensation from the stewards to race tomorrow. If the German does take part, he will start alongside his Marussia team-mate at the back of the grid.