Monte Carlo: Defending drivers world champion Sebastian Vettel on Saturday secured pole position for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix after Mexican driver Sergio Perez survived a horrifying high-speed crash that halted the session for more than half an hour.
The 23-year-year-old German, in his Red Bull car, clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 13.556 seconds shortly before Perez's shocking collision with the barriers left his rivals with barely three minutes to respond.
After a prolonged delay, during which Perez was lifted out of the wreckage of his Sauber car by medical crews and the barriers at the chicane following the exit from the tunnel were repaired, the final drama turned into an anti-climax.
It was current championship leader Vettel's first pole at the Monaco race and his sixth in the last seven races, including last season's finale at Abu Dhabi.
In Sunday's race he will seek his first Monaco triumph and his eighth victory in 10 races.
Briton Jenson Button of McLaren was second-fastest behind the German ahead of third-placed Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Six-times Monaco winner and seven times drivers champion German Michael Schumacher, 42, of Mercedes, qualified fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari and Briton Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren.
Hamilton had been on a flying lap at the time of Perez's accident and the delay deprived him, and the vast crowd around the harbour-side street circuit, of a chance to challenge for pole. In the final minutes, when the top nine all went out again, it proved impossible to improve times.
German Nico Rosberg, who escaped injury when he also suffered a big accident at almost the same place as Perez during the morning's final free practice session, was a bold, brave eighth in the second Mercedes.
Behind him rookie Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado was ninth for Williams while 10th place on the grid was officially left for Perez, who had driven splendidly earlier to fight his way through to the top-ten shootout.
The 21-year-old rookie lost control of his machine as he came out of the tunnel.
His car appeared to hit bumps in the surface of the circuit, lift to the left and then steer right into the barriers before slewing in a half-turn into a barrier at the chicane.
Perez hit the barrier side-on and the session was stopped immediately with a medical team and an ambulance going to the scene to attend to the driver.
The barriers into which Perez finally came to a halt were the same barriers into which Austrian Karl Wenglinger collided in 1994 - leaving him in a coma for nearly three weeks – and also Britons Jenson Button and David Coulthard.
Nicknamed 'Checo', Perez, from Guadalajara, is in his first season in Formula One and has established a reputation as one of the most talented, confident, and likeable, young drivers in the paddock.
His father Antonio, accompanied by the Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder, swiftly followed to the circuit medical centre following the accident. Perez was described by the team as being lucid and answering questions.
First Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011, 16:24