SINGAPORE (AFP) Sebastian Vettel stormed to his fifth pole position of the season Saturday as he strengthened his bid to leap closer to a fourth straight world title at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The young German timed a scorching 1min 42.841sec around the spot-lit Marina Bay street circuit to take first place on the grid ahead of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean will start third, ahead of Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, second in the overall standings behind Vettel, could only manage sixth fastest ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Gutierrez.
But the evening belonged, once again, to Vettel, who set the two fastest times and will now be favourite to claim his third win in a row in Singapore and his fourth out of the last five races.
Hamilton topped the standings in a swiftly shifting first qualifying period, ahead of Button, Alonso, Sergio Perez and Rosberg.
Red Bull's Webber and Vettel, one of only the few using the slower medium tyres in the opening stansa, were sixth and seventh.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa escaped the drop with a late lap which pushed him from 18th to 13th. Paul Di Resta and Pastor Maldonado, and both Caterhams and both Marussias, missed out.
Rosberg was leading Q2 from his team-mate Hamilton with a super-fast 1:43.892 - until Vettel started his flying lap.
The young German, bouncing over kerbs and speeding just centimetres from the track walls, obliterated Rosberg's time by nearly a second as he screamed round in 1:42.905.
Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton led the cars into the Q3 shoot-out, with Nico Hulkenberg, Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's Perez outside the top 10.
It was no surprise that Vettel stayed fastest, but he did it in impressive style, lowering his previous time and earning enough breathing space to garage early.
However, there were some nervy moments when Webber threatened his time - and a relieved Vettel punched the air as he watched his Australian team-mate finish in a slower time.
The 26-year-old has a 53-point lead in the standings and victory on Sunday will put him closer to matching Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio by winning four championships in a row.