The double world championâ€™s time of 1m38.481, was enough to jump the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who were separated by just 0.009s, and Vettelâ€™s incredible season continued as he equalled the record set by Nigel Mansell for 14 pole positions in a single season.
â€œI was not so happy with my first run in Q3, but I was much happier with my second run, especially the first two sectors and with that I was buying myself a little bit of a cushion in the last sector, which was a bit trickier towards the end of the evening,â€ Vettel said.
â€œBut all in all it was enough to jump ahead of Lewis, who looked very strong all weekend, and itâ€™s good that in that session, when it matters, we were able to be just that little bit quicker than him.â€
Hamilton, who dominated free practice, and the first two qualifying sessions, was understandably disappointed with his performance in Q3, with a quickest time of 1m38.622s, after a quicker lap in Q2 which would have been enough for pole if set in Q3.
Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull with a time of 1m38.858s after failing to improve on his second run ahead of Ferrariâ€™s Fernando Alonso, who could only manage fifth quickest with a 1m39.058s – a result to be expected with the Spaniard unable to live with the pace of the front four across the weekend.
Felipe Massa was sixth in the second Ferrari with a time of 1m39.695s, with Mercedesâ€™ Nico Rosberg lapping 1m39.773s for seventh ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher on 1m40.662s.
Both Force India drivers continued their impressive form at the circuit to qualify in the top 10, but opted not to take much part in Q3, with Adrian Sutil making a reasonable effort to lap 1m40.768s to take ninth. Paul di Resta stayed in the garage to conserve tyres after using extra sets of the prime tyres to reach Q3.
Sergio PÃ©rez was unlucky to miss out on the top 10 showdown with his final run for Sauber a time of 1m 40.874s, leaving him 11th ahead of Vitaly Petrov, as Renault continued to struggle around the marina circuit.
SÃ©bastien Buemi was the top Toro Rosso driver, but could only manage a time of 1m 41.009s for 13th, ahead of Bruno Senna in the second Renault. Toro Rossoâ€™s Jaime Alguersuari, Sauberâ€™s Kamui Kobayashi and Williamsâ€™ Pastor Maldonado were close behind, but Maldonadoâ€™s 10-place grid penalty for taking an additional engine relegates him to 23rd.
Lotusâ€™ Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli headed the traditional back-markers in Q3, with Kovalainen within three-tenths of Schumacher, on 1m 42.979s, with team mate Jarno Trulli making a late improvement to 1m 43.884s.
Virginâ€™s Timo Glock could only manage 1m44.515s for 20th, with Australian youngster Daniel Ricciardo getting the better of HRT team-mate Tonio Liuzzi by half a second on 1m44.641s.
JÃ©rÃ´me dâ€™Ambrosioâ€™s Virgin on 1m44.699s sandwiched in between, with Williamsâ€™ Rubens Barrichello failing to leave the pits after engine problems from free practice could not be fixe in time to give the veteran a chance to qualify in what could be his penultimate race of a 19-year career in the sport.
With Maldonado’s drop from 17th place, Williams suffered their worst weekend in over 30 years, with Barrichello starting last.
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1min 38.481secs
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:38.622
3 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:38.631
4 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:38.858
5 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:39.058
6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:39.695
7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:39.773
8 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:40.662
9 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:40.768
10 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India No Time
11 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.874
12 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:40.919
13 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:41.009
14 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 1:41.079
15 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:41.162
16 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.240
17 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:41.760*
18 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 1:42.979
19 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 1:43.884
20 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 1:44.515
21 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 1:44.641
22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 1:44.699
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 1:45.159
24 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams No Time
* Pastor Maldonado receives a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding the limit of eight engines allowed during the season and therefore will start from 24th.
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