Alonso had set the benchmark with a stunning time of 1.13:927 and looked on course to claim FerrariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first pole of the year, but the GermanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s final run saw him go round in 1:13:791Ã¢â‚¬â€just missing the lap record of 1:13:780 set by Kimi RÃƒÂ¤ikkÃƒÂ¶nen in the 2004 McLaren.
Ferrari can celebrate their strongest qualifying performance of the year as Felipe Massa was third quickest ahead of VettelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team-mate Mark Webber.
Jenson Button came from nowhere to out-qualify team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the first time since China as McLaren put a difficult weekend behind them to take fifth and sixth.
RenaultÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Robert Kubica had a solid final session to qualify seventh, ahead of WilliamsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Rubens Barrichello, Nico Rosberg, and the second Williams of Nico HÃƒÂ¼lkenberg.
Force IndiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Vitanto Liuzzi was the biggest loser in Q1 as he smashed into the barrier protecting the pit lane. His qualifying over, he will be forced to mix it with the new teams at the back of the grid after his mechanics have spent the rest of the day rebuilding his car.
Surprisingly, Hispania are not propping up the grid this weekend as Virgin RacingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Lucas di Grassi suffered a gearbox failure which prevented him from setting a time in qualifying, while his team-mate Timo Glock starts 20th.
Lotus were once again the best of the newcomers, with Jarno Trulli outpacing team-mate Heikki Kovalainen to take 18th on the grid.
Michael Schumacher lost out in Q2 as compatriot HÃƒÂ¼lkenberg produced a late lap to move up to ninth ahead of Kubica, eliminating the seven-time world champion.
Sauber failed to make the top 10 as Kamui Kobayashi was 12th quickest, with team-mate Pedro De La Rosa 15th.
Force IndiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good running in qualifying turned completely sour as Adrian Sutil could only manage 14th quickest, with the German taking a five-place penalty for a gear box change leaving both drivers near the back of the grid.
Toro Rosso had a relatively bad afternoon as Jaime Alguersauri outpaced young talent SÃƒÂ©bastien Buemi to take 16th.
With the Mercedes some 6kph quicker in a straight line than the other cars, and six cars powered by Mercedes on the grid, SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s race should prove exciting into the hairpin, especially on the opening laps.
Tomorrow’s race starts at 13:00 BST and as usual can be seen on BBC One or the BBC Sport website in the UK.
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