The German was more than two-hundredths of a second quicker than Hamilton – and it will be the fifth time this season that the pair will share the front row.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber put in a solid performance to qualify third but will start from 13th due to his reprimand at Singapore for accepting a lift back to the pits from Fernando Alonso.
The punishment sees Romain Grojean benefit starting from third position alongside Nico Rosberg.
The Ferraris struggled for pace and will start from fifth and sixth, with Fernando Alonso out-qualifying Felipe Massa.
Despite being quickest in Q1, Kimi Raikkonen struggled throughout the rest of the session and could only manage to put his Lotus ninth on the grid.
There was disappointment for team McLaren after both drivers failed to make it through to Q3 – Sergio Perez will start from 10th ahead of Jenson Button in 11th.
Paul Di Resta breathed a sigh of relief when he scraped through Q1 into the next session but failed to progress further and will start from 15th place.
Force India have lodged a complaint against Jules Bianchi after they felt the Marussia driver blocked Di Resta on his final lap of Q1.
Both Williams’ drivers failed to make it through Q1 for the fourth time this season and will start from 17th and 18th position.
1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 37.202s
2 Lewis Hamilton Britain Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 37.420s
3 Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 37.464s*
4 Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1m 37.531s
5 Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 37.679s
6 Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 38.038s
7 Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 38.223s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Germany Sauber-Ferrari 1m 38.237s
9 Esteban Gutierrez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 1m 38.405s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 1m38.8228s
11. Sergio Perez Mexico McLaren-Mercedes 1m 38.362s
12. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 38.365s
13. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 38.417s
15. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 38.431s
16. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 1m 38.718s
17. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 38.781s
17. Valtteri Bottas Finland Williams-Renault 1m 39.470s
18. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 1m 39.987s
19. Charles Pic France Caterham-Renault 1m 40.864s
20. Giedo van der Garde Holland Caterham-Renault 1m 40.871s
21. Jules Bianchi France Marussia-Cosworth 1m 41.169s
22. Max Chilton Britain Marussia-Cosworth 1m 41.322s
* denotes driver due to take ten-place penalty
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