Lewis Hamilton of McLaren took pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, while Red Bull qualified on the front two rows and has an opportunity to close the gap on championship leaders Brawn GP.
Hamilton earned his third pole in four Formula One races with a time of 1 minute, 47.891 around the Marina Bay circuit. It was the 16th pole of his career, equal second among current drivers. "The car over the weekend got better and better," Hamilton said. "We will see what happens with the strategy but we are in the best position, starting from the front row.
"We really didn't expect it, so it's a surprise." Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will start from second on Sunday, relishing a return to a high downforce circuit. The front-row slot gives the German a chance to close the gap on the Brawn pair, who fill the top two spots in the drivers' championship. "We are not giving up, we are here to attack," Vettel said. Nico Rosberg of Williams was third fastest - his best qualifying performance since 2006 - ahead of Mark Webber of Red Bull, who also retains slim championship hopes.
"We're not 10th - we're fourth, so we can do something from there," Webber said.
Brawn's Rubens Barrichello crashed late in qualifying and was fifth fastest, but will start from 10th after a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.
"I couldn't afford to lose any time so I went for it," Barrichello said. "The car bottomed out and I lost control. It just bounced off the wall. I hope the chassis is okay." Championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP will start from 12th. The Briton made an error late in the second session of qualifying and, on a circuit where it is difficult to pass, he faces an uphill task to collect points on Sunday.
"The car hit the ground and then I locked the wheel and it cost me a lot of time," Button said. "I'm starting 12th, so it's not a good position to be in."
Ferrari, which has given up further developing its current car and is concentrating on 2010, predictably struggled. Kimi Raikkonen qualified 13th and Giancarlo Fisichella 18th.