Greater Noida: World champion Sebastian Vettel raced to his 13th pole position of the year at the Indian Grand Prix on Saturday as he bids to equal Michael Schumacher's record for most wins in a season.
The young German, who reclaimed his title this month in Japan, heads an all-Red Bull front row at India's first Formula One race after Lewis Hamilton, who qualified second, was put back three places for an earlier infringement. Teammate Mark Webber takes the second spot after qualifying in the third position.
Vettel is now just one off Nigel Mansell's 1992 record of 14 poles in one year, and he can match Schumacher's achievement of winning 13 races in 2004 if he is victorious in all three remaining races.
"At the end my lap wasn't 100 percent but you always get out of the car thinking (that)," said Vettel, 24. "It's good to start the race from the front tomorrow. I think it's going to be an interesting race."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will start in the third place at the Buddh International Circuit on Sunday with Jenson Button, vying to hang on to second place in the drivers' standings, fourth.
Button's McLaren partner Lewis Hamilton will begin his challenge from fifth after being penalised three grid places for ignoring warning flags during free practice on Friday.
And Ferrari's Felipe Massa will start sixth despite a dramatic crash in the dying seconds when his front wheel was knocked askew by a kerb and he ploughed nose-first into the barriers. The Brazilian was not hurt in the incident.
Vettel led the drivers into the 10-minute final session and he was never headed as he clocked 1min 24.178sec to take the honours on the dust-strewn course near New Delhi.
But seven-time champion Schumacher failed to reach the top-10 shoot-out after barely squeaking into the second qualifying segment in a disappointing outing.
India's Narain Karthikeyan was penalised five places for impeding the German in the first qualifying segment, and will start from the back of the grid.
"You should try to stay out of the way of people who are qualifying," said Schumacher, who gesticulated angrily at the HRT driver as he finally went past.
"When you're the person who receives this, you don't feel happy about it."
Button wore a black armband in memory of British IndyGP driver Dan Wheldon while Massa wore a '58' sticker on his helmet to commemorate MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli.
Both racers died in competition in a tragic month for motorsport, casting a shadow over preparations for India's first ever Grand Prix.
High excitement over the event has been tempered by disquiet at the massive disparity between Formula One's super-rich and local people living in one of the world's poorest regions.
But organisers are already celebrating a smooth inauguration of the $400 million circuit as a boost for India's image after the embarrassment of last year's shambolic New Delhi Commonwealth Games.