Sebastian Vettel took pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix for the fourth successive year on Saturday, with teammate Mark Webber going second quickest to seal a Red Bull front row.
The result gives the German world champion the best chance possible of closing Fernando Alonso's 29-point lead in the drivers' standings after the Spaniard posted a time that sees him start sixth.
McLaren's Jensen Button went third-fastest but has a five-place grid penalty for an illegal gearbox change and must start in eighth, one position ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
That promotes Sauber's local hero Kamui Kobayashi to third on the grid, with Romain Grosjean of Lotus in fourth.
Sergio Perez, starts fifth in his first race since the announcement that the Mexican will replace Hamilton at McLaren next year, with the Briton taking the seat of the retiring Michael Schumacher at Mercedes.
Seven-time champion Schumacher said he lacked the motivation to continue in the sport, and starts on the back row after incurring a 10-place penalty for a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore last month.
Alonso, meanwhile, claimed to have been impeded by the last-lap spin of Kimi Raikkonen, which occurred after Vettel had gone quickest but before the Ferrari driver finished his final fast lap.
Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov starts one place ahead of Schumacher in 22nd, outqualified by teammate Heikki Kovalainen, who starts 17th.
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2. Mark Webber (Red Bull)
3. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber)
4. Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
5. Sergio Perez (Sauber)
6. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
7. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
8. Jenson Button (McLaren)
9. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
10. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
11. Paul di Resta (Force India)
12. Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
13. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
14. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
15. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
16. Bruno Senna (Williams)
17. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham)
18. Timo Glock (Marussia)
19. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)
20. Pedro de la Rosa (HRT)
21. Charles Pic (Marussia)
22. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham)
23. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)
24. Narain Karthikeyan (HRT)
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