Vettel led the way for all of Q3 after setting a stunning early time, before improving with a 1m24.178s to put some distance between himself and his closest rivals.
McLarenâ€™s Lewis Hamilton was second quickest on the track, almost three tenths slower, but will start the race fifth after his three-place grid penalty for ignoring waved double yellows in Friday morning practice.
Vettelâ€™s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, who was a further three hundredths slower, replaces the McLaren driver on the front row.
â€œI think it was a good session for us,â€ Vettel said. â€œIt was tricky for all of us. The car has been fantastic since yesterday.
“I am extremely happy. Itâ€™s good to be here. It will be a very interesting race. Itâ€™s a challenging circuit so Iâ€™m looking forward to tomorrow.â€
Ferrariâ€™s Fernando Alonso will start third ahead of McLarenâ€™s Jenson Button, who was seven tenths off Vettelâ€™s pace, with Felipe Massa starting from sixth alongside Hamilton after a dramatic afternoon for the Brazilian.
Nico Rosberg was seventh for Mercedes, while the last three Q3 drivers opting to remain in the pits for the final qualifying session to save tyres for the race. Force Indiaâ€™s Adrian Sutil was classified eighth, ahead of Jaime Alguersuari and SÃ©bastien Buemi.
Still getting to grips with tyre choices and the layout of the new circuit, a stream of drivers headed out at the beginning of Q1 on the harder option Pirelli tyre, to conserve the prime tyre for the race.
But many struggled with grip and Hamilton and Massa were among the drivers who ran wide, throwing up more dust onto an already dusty circuit.
Button and Mercedesâ€™ Michael Schumacher both complained to their teams about the lack of rear grip on the option tyres, and had to switch to the prime to make it through Q1 on their final runs, eliminating Sauberâ€™s Kamui Kobayashi.
Q2 was equally curious as drivers ran on the prime tyre to guarantee a Q3 place, but Schumacher missed out on his final run and qualified 12th, despite being on the prime tyres, as both Toro Rosso drivers made it through to the top 10 shootout.
Force Indiaâ€™s Paul di Resta also missed the cut and will start 13th, along with both Renaults.
Vitaly Petrov will from 16th following his five place grid penalty for running into Schumacher at the last race in Korea, just behind team-mate Bruno Senna who will start from 15th.
The final session produced the expected fireworks in the battle for pole, with Vettel again setting the benchmark with a 1m24.437s to lead Hamilton and Webber, while Alonso will be happy to have been within just a couple of hundredths off his main rivals.
Massa, who was quickest in Friday practice, had a session to forget after smashing his front suspension on the kerbs at Turn 8, before colliding with the barriers.
At the back of the grid, HRT will be buoyed by their performance as both drivers out-qualified the Virgin cars.
Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan was just slower than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, but will start ahead of the Australian, after he drops to the back for a gearbox change.
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1mins 24.178secs
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:24.474
3 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:24.508
4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:24.519
5 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:24.950
6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:25.122
7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:25.451
8 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India No Time
9 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time
10 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time
11 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:26.319
12 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:26.337
13 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:26.503
14 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:26.537
15 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 1:26.651
16 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 1:27.247
17 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.562
18 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.876
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 1:28.565
20 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 1:28.752
21 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 1:30.216
22 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) HRT-F1 1:30.238
23 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 1:31.878
24 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 1:34.046
• Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez both receive three-place grid penalties due to ignoring a yellow flag in Friday’s practice, so will start the race in 5th and 20th places respectively.
• Additionally, Vitaly Petrov receives a five-place grid penalty for causing a accident with Michael Schumacher in the Korean Grand Prix and Daniel Ricciardo receives a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, they will start 16th and 24th respectively.
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