Sebastian Vettel claimed his second consecutive pole position after another dominant qualifying performance in Valencia this afternoon, having lapped three tenths quicker than his closest rival. The German stopped the clock in a time of 1m38.086s in the closing seconds of Q3, with Lewis Hamilton's time of 1m38.410s the closest anybody got to the reigning champion.
The laptimes were incredibly close during the Q2 session, with just over two tenths of a second separating the top 11 drivers ahead of what was expected to be an equally close pole position shoot-out. Vettel put pole position beyond doubt with his eye-catching effort, with team principal Christian Horner describing the lap as 'remarkable'.
Vettel initially displaced Williams' Pastor Maldondo at the top of the timesheets, the Venezuelan having clocked a 1m38.475s a short time earlier, before Hamilton came through to knock him from the front row. Lotus's Romain Grosjean lacked the pace in the final sector and claimed fourth place (1m38.505s), with team-mate Kimi Räikkönen securing fifth (1m38.513s).
Nico Rosberg posted a time of 1m38.623s on his early-session run, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi taking seventh (1m38.741s) in his first Q3 appearance since Barcelona. Force India team-mates Nico Hülkenberg (1m38.752s) and Paul di Resta (1m38.992s) sandwiched McLaren's Jenson Button (1m38.801s) at the bottom of the Q3 timesheets, the latter having failed to capitalise on some promising pace displayed earlier in the weekend.
The battle to get into the top ten raged as intensely as ever in Q2, with both Ferraris on this occasion getting the early boot. Fernando Alonso (1m38.707s) could finish only 11th on home turf, less than a tenth clear of team-mate Felipe Massa (1m38.780s) who took 13th behind former team-mate Michael Schumacher (1m38.770s) in the Mercedes.
Bruno Senna (1m39.207s) and Sergio Pérez (1m39.358s) also failed to make Q3, while Caterham continued to show positive signs of progress with Heikki Kovalainen (1m40.295s) first making the Q2 cut and then securing 16th place on the grid ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo (1m40.358s).
Kovalainen's progress to Q2 meant there were two major scalps at the end of Q1, with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne (1m40.203s) and Red Bull's Mark Webber (1m40.395s) both failing to progress, the latter due to a malfunctioning DRS rear wing. That left Vitaly Petrov (1m40.457s), Pedro de la Rosa (1m42.171s), Narain Karthikeyan (1m42.527s) and Charles Pic (1m42.675s) to fight over the final places.
Marussia's Timo Glock failed to post a laptime in qualifying after being sidelined by illness, but has been given permission by the stewards to race tomorrow if he is physically fit.