Mark Webber claimed his second pole position of the season as he edged team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Korea on Saturday.
Although Vettel was the favourite to take pole position at the Yeongam circuit, it was his Aussie team-mate who stole the show with a 1:37.242. That put Webber 0.074s up on Vettel and secured the 36-year-old's second pole of the season.
The second row has Lewis Hamilton alongside Fernando Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth ahead of Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean.
It was overcast at the sparsely spectatored Yeongam circuit with an ambient temperature of 22C and the track at 28C.
Pastor Maldonado set the first sub-1:40 lap at 1:39.716 which was ramped up by Fernando Alonso with a 1:39.543 and then Felipe Massa did considerably better with a 1:39.074. Kimi Raikkonen moved it down to 1:38.887.
Drivers were running multiple laps on the harder of the two tyres (the Soft) and so Alonso edged his time down even though he didn't improve his place. Sebastian Vettel needed just three laps to set the definitive time of 1:38.208. Mark Webber slotted into P2 and then Jenson Button took P2 off him. Lewis Hamilton was faster than Alonso but not by much and was having issues getting his car stopped into Turn 1.
Narain Karthikyean had already ended his qualifying after a front brake disc failure pitched him into a spin in the braking zone for Turn 3, the HRT car out on the spot.
With four minutes left to run the danger positions were: 14.Hulkenberg, 15.Perez, 16.Vergne. 17.Kobayashi, 18.Kovalainen, 19.Petrov, 20.Senna.
The switch to the red-walled supersoft tyre was taken by all the mid-grid teams with Bruno Senna most vulnerable, already down amongst the new teams. However a set of supersofts immediately produced results as Maldonado jumped to P10, Senna to P13 and Kobayashi to P4.
With other cars improving the timesheet was rapidly turning over and seconds later the positions were: 14.Hamilton, 15.Alonso, 16.Senna, 17.Schumacher, 18.Vergne.
Ferrari were alive to the possibilities of Alonso going out and sent him back on track with a set of supersoft tyres. Hamilton stayed in the garage.
When Vergne put his Toro Rosso into P6 that pushed Michael Schumacher into P18, and when he grabbed P8 it made the positions: 16.Hamilton, 17.Alonso, 18.Senna. What's more Senna and Alonso were on laps that looked like improving their position yet Hamilton was sat looking at the timing screens.Alonso took a scruffy P16 pushing Lewis to P17, but then after a good opening sector Bruno Senna had a 44.1 second middle sector (his best had been 43.6) and that was his Q1 over. The Williams team called him back into the pits, much to the relief of McLaren.
Out went: 18.Senna, 19.Petrov, 20.Kovalainen, 21.Pic, 22.Glock, 23.de la Rosa, 24.Karthikeyan (no time)
It was another poor result for Bruno Senna, although ultimately Pastor Maldonado would not finish that much further in front of him. Great outcomes for Petrov and Pic outqualifying their team-mates against the run of form this season. Overall the difference between P1 (Vettel) 1:38.2 and P17 (Hamilton) 1:39.1 was just 0.9 of a second.
There was no-one anxious to get clear track space at the beginning of Q2 and it took almost a minute before Sergio Perez came out to set the benchmark time of 1:38.981. Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi reduced it to 1 1:38.504 before Fernando Alonso became the first man to break the 1:38 barrier with a 1:37.987.
Ferrari will have been encouraged to see that Sebastian Vettel couldn't beat that by very much - a 1:37.767 for Vettel put him top with Mark Webber slotting into P3 and then Lewis Hamilton displacing him in P3.
The McLarens had more brake locking issues than most and Jenson Button should have put in a faster first lap than he did on his opening tour but locked up. With four minutes of the session left to run the danger positions were: 6.Grosjean, 7.Schumacher, 8.Button, 9.Raikkonen, 10.Kobayashi, 11.DiResta, 12.Rosberg, 13.Perez, 14.Ricciardo, 15.Hulkenberg,16.Vergne, 17.Maldonado.
Everyone but Vettel went for another run on track, though not necessarily using a new set of tyres. With low wear on the smooth (underused) Yeongam circuit the supersofts could be used for more than one fast lap.
Nico Hulkenberg jumped up to P7, Maldonado could only improve to P13 and then the yellow flags came out for Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso which he parked at the side of the track in the final sector (gearbox). Despite the yellow flags Perez improved to P10, Rosberg moved to P7, then Raikkonen to P5, pushing Button into P11 where he stayed.
As the session closed, out went: 11.Button, 12.Perez, 13.Kobayashi, 14.DiResta, 15.Maldonado, 16.Ricciardo, 17.Vergne.
Button was the big casualty, losing out by 0.005 to Michael Schumacher, unable to put in a fast final sector, while Paul diResta hit a lot of traffic and was slower on a new set of softs than he was on a scrubbed set.
Mercedes produced an almost pantomime start to the final qualifying session by going to the end of the pitlane (with the green light on) and just sitting there, letting their tyres go cold. First Rosberg, and then Schumacher parked their cars. In fact Michael was sat there for an age while all the other cars went round him.
Hamilton was keen to get on with his outlap and passed both a Red Bull and a Lotus in his anxiety to get the track position he wanted.
Across the line they came on their opening laps, Massa set the benchmark with a 1:38.010, followed by Alonso 1:37.667. Grosjean slotted into P3 and then Lewis Hamilton displaced him in P3.
Sebastian Vettel then produced the much-expected provisional pole lap of 1:37.316, while team-mate Mark Webber could only manage P3 behind Alonso.
The keen-to-park-up Mercedes cars had come into the pits without setting a lap time, but in the second round decided to go for it. In fact Michael Schumacher was launched into the pitlane right in front of Lewis Hamilton who adeptly swerved round him.
The Force India of Nico Hulkenberg wasn't saving tyres either and claimed P7. Next round was a blistering lap from Mark Webber who put his Red Bull on provisional pole. Lewis Hamilton did a lot better to cross the line in P3, Alonso stayed P4, Nico Rosberg outqualified team-mate Michael Schumacher by taking P8, but lost a place when Romain Grosjean came past him to grab P7.
All eyes turned expectantly to Sebastian Vettel who would no doubt reclaim P1 but a poor first sector ruined his chances and he came up short of his team-mate.
So it was a Red Bull front row but with some interesting neighbours on the grid - Alonso just in front of Raikkonen who punctured Alonso's rear tyre at the last start in Suzuka. Grosjean next to his team-mate and not far away from Rosberg (who got shunted out of the last race) and Schumacher who he's had the pleasure of colliding with in the past.
Given that the low-tyre wear surface could produce a grinder of a one-stop race for some teams, then track position on the opening lap will be key. And with a lot of dust on the used-once-a-year-track that might generate some mistakes on Lap 1 tomorrow. Vettel and Webber should be clear of it, but further back there could be a lot of 'fun'.
01. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m37.242
02. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m37.316 + 0.074
03. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.469 + 0.227
04. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.534 + 0.292
05. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m37.625 + 0.383
06. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.884 + 0.642
07. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m37.934 + 0.692
08. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m38.266 + 1.024
09. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.361 + 1.119
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.513 + 1.271
11. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.441 + 0.674
12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.460 + 0.693
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.594 + 0.827
14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m38.643 + 0.876
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m38.725 + 0.958
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.084 + 1.317
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.340 + 1.573
18. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m39.443 + 1.235
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m40.207 + 1.999
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m40.333 + 2.125
21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.317 + 3.109
22. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.371 + 3.163
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m42.881 + 4.673
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth no time