Vettel on pole in Singapore
Singapore - Championship-chasing German Sebastian Vettel nabbed his 11th pole position of the season on Saturday as his powerful Red Bull team secured a front-row lockout for the Singapore Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old dominated the floodlit night session as Red Bull extended their supremacy with a 14th successive pole, a 100 percent record that gives Vettel a good chance to retain his title in the 61-lap race on Sunday.
His Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber was second fastest thanks to a last-gasp lap of a competitive and tense session that featured a red flag interruption, accidents and punctures at the steamy Marina Bay circuit.
Spaniard Alonso qualified fifth for Ferrari behind the two McLarens of Britons Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the 2009 and 2008 champions respectively, who will line up in third and fourth places on the grid.
Vettel's pole was the 26th of his career as he seeks to become the youngest double champion in Formula One history - a feat he can achieve if he wins in Singapore and nearest rival Fernando Alonso fails to finish on the podium along with his other challengers.
Vettel was in such a strong qualifying position that he could afford to ease off and not deliver a second hot lap.
"I decided to abort my second run when I made a mistake because it is very easy to damage the car so I went wide," explained Vettel, whose hands could be seen shaking with adrenalin as he stepped gingerly out of his car afterwards.
"I was quite happy with my first lap. I think the circuit ramped up at the end and I think it was possible to go faster, but I'm very happy.
"It's a very difficult track with such a long lap to get everything right. I think we learned from our mistakes that we made last year."
Cryptic Red Bull team chief Christian Horner said they were not even thinking about titles or celebrations.
"The moon and stars have got to line up. We haven't booked anything for a party should we win. We're focused on the race."
Webber, who jumped from fourth to second with his final flying lap, will be expected to "drive shotgun" for Vettel in Sunday's race, protecting his team-mate from attack if they succeed in controlling the pace at the front. The Australian said: "I'm happy. It's been a very testing venue for me in the past.
"Sebastian laid it down pretty hard and fast. Obviously he was very quick. I'm satisfied given the curved ball teams can face at this track. Both cars are up there -- so for us, it's a great result."
Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa was sixth ahead of German Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, 42.
Another German, Adrian Sutil, was ninth for Force India, one place ahead of his team-mate Briton Paul di Resta.
On another steaming hot night, the qualifying session began at 10:00pm local time under dazzling floodlights with the temperature hovering around 32 degrees Celsius and 67 percent humidity.
If it was taxing for a sell-out 75 000 crowd - the spectators perspiring around Marina Bay - it was a harsh test of fitness for the drivers and their teams.
The tough conditions and need for front end grip soon saw the Renault team struggling at the wrong end of the time-sheets as Brazilian Bruno Senna and Russian Vitaly Petrov scrapped to survive into Q2.
In the end, Senna surged through, but Petrov failed to make it and was top of those who failed to make the cut - the first Renault driver this year not to reach the second mini-session.
Japanese Kamui Kobayashi lost his Sauber car over the kerbs in the chicane and flew into barriers, providing more drama as qualifying approached its climax.
His airborne exit ended his session and brought out the red flags with nine minutes remaining, in which Hamilton, out on soft tyres to secure his passage to the shootout, had to come in with a rear left puncture.
The starting grid for Sunday's Grand Prix following the final qualifying sessions on Saturday:
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Red Bull-Renault)
Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull-Renault)
Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Fernando Alonso (ESP/Ferrari)
Felipe Massa (BRA/Ferrari)
Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes)
Michael Schumacher (GER/Mercedes)
Adrian Sutil (GER/Force India-Mercedes)
Paul di Resta (SCO/Force India-Mercedes)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Sauber-Ferrari)
Rubens Barrichello (BRA/Williams-Cosworth)
Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Williams-Cosworth)
Sébastien Buemi (SWI/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Bruno Senna (BRA/Lotus-Renault)
Jaime Alguersuari (ESP/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Kamui Kobayashi (JPN/Sauber-Ferrari)
Vitaly Petrov (RUS/Lotus-Renault)
Heikki Kovalainen (FIN/Team Lotus)
Jarno Trulli (ITA/Team Lotus)
Timo Glock (GER/Virgin-Cosworth)
Jérôme d'Ambrosio (BEL/Virgin-Cosworth)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Hispania-Cosworth)
Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA/Hispania-Cosworth)