Motor racing: Mark Webber claims Japanese Grand Prix pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel

SUZUKA, JAPAN (AFP) - Red Bull's Mark Webber upstaged his title-seeking team-mate Sebastian Vettel on Saturday as he snatched his first pole position of the season in a masterful qualifying drive for the Japanese Grand Prix.

With all eyes on Vettel, who may be able to land his fourth successive world title in Sunday's race, the soon-to-retire Australian clocked 1min 30.915sec to push Vettel into second.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start behind the Red Bulls on the second row alongside Lotus's Romain Grosjean, with Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg on the third row.

Nico Huelkenberg timed seventh, just ahead of Fernando Alonso. If Vettel wins on Sunday, the Ferrari man will need to finish inside the top eight to keep the title race alive.

Webber's rivalry with Vettel reached boiling point earlier this season when the German ignored team orders and overtook his team-mate to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Australian later announced he was quitting Formula One at the end of the season. But he said pole position was a sweet farewell to Suzuka, despite admitting he'd been helped by a KERS problem plaguing Vettel.

"Sebastian had a problem so it's a little bit of a hollow pole," Webber told reporters. "But you take them where you can get them. It's not like they hand them out.

"We did the laps when they counted and that's what was important. It's a very, very nice farewell pole here on my last attempt at Suzuka on a really phenomenal circuit."