Sebastian Vettel on pole ahead of Mark Webber in Singapore
Last updated on .From the section Formula 1
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel stormed to his 11th pole of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix with another scintillating qualifying performance.
The German, who can become world champion on Sunday if results go his way, was in a league of his own, 0.351 seconds ahead of team-mate Mark Webber.
Jenson Button out-qualified McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton to take third, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fifth.
Hamilton lost second place when he did not go out for a second run.
The team had a refuelling problem and ran out of time to get him out of the pits.
That allowed Webber and Button to sneak ahead of him but it was very close behind Vettel, with the gap between second and fifth places only 0.142 secs.
Hamilton said: "We probably could have been on the front row, which is good for tomorrow. The pace is good. I feel good. We can only go forward from there, hopefully."
It was an eventful evening for Hamilton, who had a run-in with Ferrari's Felipe Massa at the start of the final session and also had a scare in the second part of qualifying.
In the top-10 shoot-out, Hamilton was behind Button, Alonso and Massa as they prepared for their first runs, but was determined to get by the Brazilian before starting his flying lap and the two nearly touched before the Ferrari driver finally let him by.
"I didn't understand what he wanted to do," said Massa. "There were three cars slow, preparing their laps. He was in the condition to touch with somebody on the out lap - I think he didn't use his mind. Again."
Hamilton said: "The guys always try to back you up and I was ready to get going. I was trying to get past but he kept blocking and blocking and eventually I got past."
He added that he had lost some time because he was too close behind Alonso on his quick lap.
In the second session, Hamilton had run on the slower 'soft' tyres early in the session while the other front-runners did their runs on the faster 'super-soft' tyres early on and sat out the final few minutes.
A puncture in his right-rear tyre meant he did not get a run on the super-softs and he had an anxious wait while lying in eighth place to see if anyone would knock him out of the top 10.
Hamilton's troubles meant it never became clear how close he could get to Vettel, whose advantage in final qualifying was not as big as it had been for much of the weekend.
The German was 0.6secs quicker than any of his rivals in the first and second parts of qualifying, but that margin was trimmed when it mattered.
Vettel might have gone quicker but he made a mistake pushing too hard on his final lap, when both Webber and Button improved.
"The last one I tried a little bit too much," Vettel said. "I think I could have made it but I decided to abort. I went wide.
"I was quite happy with my first lap. I think it was possible to go faster and I'm very happy around here. It's a fun challenge."
If Vettel wins the race, he will become champion if Alonso is lower than third and if Webber or Button are lower than second.
Webber had appeared to be struggling for much of the weekend, but said he had been pleased with his performance in the end.
"It's a very challenging venue," he said, "not one I would choose to come to every week. One of my best sessions on Saturday here. A few 10ths off Seb."
Button, who was compromised by missing more than half of Friday's second practice session, added: "If I had put (the best of my two laps) together it would have been good but you struggle to get it all together round here through all three sectors. It's something I've been fighting all day.
"I didn't get much running yesterday so I'm pleased to be in the top three and it's a good position to be in for the race. It's going to be a challenge."
Alonso was Vettel's closest rival on Friday - but Ferrari lost ground overnight and the Spaniard was clearly struggling for pace throughout Saturday's running.
He said he had been right on the edge in qualifying - he came out of the final corner sideways on his final lap - and described his performance as "a perfect lap; a normal lap would have been 0.3-0.4secs slower".
Ferrari's Felipe Massa ended up sixth, ahead of the Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
Both Force Indias made it into the top-10 shoot-out but chose not to go out on to the track, so Adrian Sutil qualified ninth ahead of team-mate Paul di Resta on their times from second qualifying.
BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle said: "That's not right. The fans have paid to see 10 cars battling it out for pole. Not impressed, Force India."
Co-commentator David Coulthard added: "We want to know, on this day in history, was it Sutil or Di Resta who was fastest."
But Di Resta said the team had no choice - they were not quick enough to beat any of the teams in front of them and they were already compromised for the race by having to use an extra set of the quicker tyres earlier in qualifying.
Di Resta got into the top 10 at the last second by demoting Sauber's Sergio Perez to 11th place with the final lap of the second session.
The Mexican's team-mate Kamui Kobayashi was last in the second session because he failed to complete a lap, crashing at Turn 10.
The incident caused the session to be stopped for six minutes while the car was recovered.
"Kobayashi clipped the kerbs too hard, took a little fly and straight into those barriers," said Brundle. "It can hurt so much when you land."
The Williams drivers Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado line up 12th and 13th, with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi 14th, ahead of Renault's Bruno Senna and the second Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov was the unlucky midfield runner who joined the three back-of-the-grid teams in being eliminated after the first section of qualifying.
He was in 17th place - which would have got him through to the next stage - only to be demoted by his team-mate Bruno Senna, who went 15th fastest with the last lap of the first session.
Petrov blamed a mistake on his fastest lap for his lack of pace.