Sebastian Vettel beat Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg to pole position for the Indian Grand Prix, where he can clinch the drivers' world title.
Red Bull's Vettel, who has been in imperious form all weekend, was 0.752 seconds clear of Rosberg who beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.07secs.
Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber was fourth on the medium tyre in search of an advantage during the race.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso made the same choice and qualified eighth.
The Spaniard is the only driver who can mathematically prevent Vettel from tying up his fourth consecutive world championship on Sunday, although it is an extreme long-shot.
Vettel needs only a fifth place to be absolutely sure of the title regardless of where Alonso finishes and will be crowned champion as long as the Spaniard does not score at least 16 points more than him.
The diverging tyre strategies have set up an intriguing race.
Alonso starts behind three further drivers who qualified on the soft tyre - drivers have to start the race on the tyre they set their fastest qualifying time.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fifth ahead of Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg.
McLaren drivers Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were ninth and 10th on the medium tyre.
Button said: "The idea is everyone will pit out of our way after five or six laps but I'm sure we'll see them again at some point."
The soft tyre has much greater speed over one lap but suffers a dramatic drop-off in grip afterwards.
The drivers starting on mediums will be faster almost from the start of the race and will be hoping to lead when the drivers who chose to start on the softs have to do an early pit stop.
But all drivers have to use both tyres at some point in the race.
Vettel said he had enjoyed dominating all weekend, adding: "Mark chose a different tyre. It's a great result for the team, we'll see what the result is tomorrow."
Hamilton said: "It's been a tough weekend, that's some serious pace Red Bull have, especially with Webber on primes just behind us.
"We want to get a great result, strategy is going to play a huge part. I was a bit surprised to be where we were, but bit by bit we got better and found a decent set-up."
One driver who will struggle to get up to the front is Lotus's Romain Grosjean, who fought the Red Bulls for victory in Japan two weeks ago. He found himself down in 17th after failing to get out of the first knock-out session.
Just like Vettel, Lotus gambled on trying to run only the 'medium' tyre in first qualifying but unlike the world champion Grosjean was not quick enough.
The Frenchman was 0.6secs slower than Vettel and was pipped by Massa on the last timed lap of the session.
"We just missed the cut-off time," Grosjean said. "Everyone went quicker than what we thought. It wasn't the best thing to do today. It was OK in the last few races. But we got it wrong."