Sebastian Vettel took a huge step towards retaining the world championship by taking pole position for the United States Grand Prix.
Vettel has been dominant around the Circuit of the Americas all weekend, and edged out the impressive Lewis Hamilton by just over a tenth of a second.
But it could not have been a more different story for Vettel’s main rival Fernando Alonso, who struggled with the balance of his Ferrari all session and could only manage ninth, although he will start eighth after Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was hit with a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.
The result could spell disaster for Alonso, who will find himself on the dirty side of the grid for the start and is firmly in the danger zone ahead of the first corner, with the Spaniard now facing a huge challenge to keep his title hopes alive.
Should Vettel win the race tomorrow, Alonso has to finish fourth or higher to take the championship fight to the final round in Brazil.
Elsewhere on the grid, Mark Webber will start third, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with Michael Schumacher an impressive fifth for Mercedes.
Felipe Massa will start sixth after outqualifying his teammate for only the second time this season, with Nico Hulkenberg seventh. Alonso, Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado complete the top ten.
The big casualty of qualifying was Jenson Button, who suffered a throttle problem towards the end of the second part of qualifying and was forced to pit, leaving the McLaren driver down in 12th on the grid.
The other fallers in Q2 were Bruno Senna, – who just missed out on the final part of qualifying and shares the sixth row with Button – Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Rosberg.
Daniel Ricciardo was the big name to fall at the first hurdle of qualifying, with the Marussias, Caterhams and HRTs completing the grid.
But all eyes on raceday will be on Vettel, as Formula One waits to see if the German can become only the third driver in Formula One history to win his third successive world championship.
1) Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2) Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3) Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
4) Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
5) Michael Schumacher Mercedes
6) Felipe Massa Ferrari
7) Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
8) Fernando Alonso Ferrari
9) Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
10) Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
11) Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
12) Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
13) Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
14) Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15) Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
16) Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
17) Nico Rosberg Mercedes
18) Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari
19) Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
20) Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth
21) Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
22) Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
23) Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth
24) Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth