Sao Paulo: Nico Rosberg secured pole position for Sunday`s Brazilian Grand Prix and his 10th this season by the narrowest of margins on Saturday when he outpaced world championship leader and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
In a tense and dramatic qualifying session, both men broke the Interlagos lap record several times as Rosberg finally topped the times with a best lap in one minute and 10.023 seconds.
This was just 0.033 seconds faster than Hamilton`s best lap and enabled him to complete a clean sweep, having topped the times in all three practice sessions. It was the 14th pole position of his career.
The previous best qualifying lap at Interlagos was set by Brazilian Rubens Barrichello who clocked 1:10.646 in 2004 for Ferrari.
Rosberg`s success earned him the Pole Position Trophy as best qualifier of the season and earned Mercedes their record-equalling 18th pole of the year, drawing level with Red Bull.
It was also the team`s seventh consecutive clean sweep of the front row this season.
Hamilton had done his best to outpace his title rival, but knew too that with a lead of 24 points in the championship he can afford to finish second on Sunday and in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, where double points will be scored, to take his second world title.
"That was good and I am happy to be on pole," said Rosberg. "It is the best place to start the race, but I have to do better than I did last week in Austin last week and convert this into a win."
Hamilton said: "Congratulations to Nico. He drove a really great lap and it was a truly thrilling session -- just what qualifying is all about. Every time I went out I had to go faster and improve and so did Nico. I hope everyone enjoyed watching that."
Brazilian Felipe Massa was third fastest for Williams and greeted by a standing ovation from the fanatical Interlagos crowd. His Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest.
"That was very emotional for me," said Massa, who missed out on winning the world title in dramatic circumstances at the same venue in 2008.
"I really felt the crowd with me today."
Jenson Button, without a confirmed drive or seat in Formula One next year, proved his enduring talent by qualifying fifth for McLaren ahead of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified seventh for Ferrari ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, Kevin Magnussen of McLaren and 10th placed Fernando Alonso in the second Ferrari.
On a warm, overcast day with an air temperature of 25 degrees and a track temperature of 36, conditions were perfect for fast times.
It worked out that way, too, as Rosberg topped the times ahead of Hamilton, both of them setting record lap times for the circuit.
The demands of the circuit, with the new asphalt surface, encouraged that speed, but also spelt problems for other teams, including struggling Lotus who saw both of their drivers eliminated in Q1.
Out from that session went Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, compatriot Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez, who had no running time in his Force India on Friday, and Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus.
Much the same pattern followed in Q2 as another four men went out, failing to make the cut to the top ten shootout, as Rosberg cut his best lap time to 1:10.303, 0.409 seconds clear of Hamilton`s best effort.
The championship leader was fourth, separated from his team-mate by the two Williams.
Out this time went Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber, Germans Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Adrian Sutil of Sauber and Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso.