Singapore: Ferrari`s Sebastian Vettel denied Lewis Hamilton a record-equalling eighth straight pole position as he dominated qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday.
The four-time world champion clocked 1min 43.885sec on the demanding street circuit to front the grid for the first time in nearly two years, with Mercedes` Hamilton down in fifth.
Vettel was nearly half-a-second faster than second-placed Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing third in the other Ferrari.
"I`m surprised by the margin but I think it just came together. I had a near-perfect lap at the end," said Vettel, after screaming his celebrations over the team radio.
Red Bull`s Daniil Kvyat was fourth, ahead of Hamilton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes` 23-race stranglehold on the front spot was emphatically broken.
Vettel`s first pole position since Brazil 2013 also snapped a qualifying dry spell for Ferrari stretching back to Germany 2012.
The result gives Vettel a great chance of victory in Sunday`s race in Singapore, where five of seven previous races have been won by the pole-sitter.
Mercedes have been slow all week so far but any thoughts they were bluffing evaporated in a difficult session for the championship pace-setters.
Hamilton was briefly quickest in Q1 but he was otherwise not in the reckoning, and had to pit in Q3 when his underbody was damaged by scraping a kerb.
The Briton enjoys a 53-point lead in the standings but he will be stricken after losing the chance to equal Ayrton Senna`s record of eight pole positions in a row.
Hamilton will also have to fight past both Red Bulls and both Ferraris if he wants to match his boyhood idol`s career tally of 41 wins from 161 races on Sunday.
"I thought they were playing a few card games yesterday but it`s obvious they`re not particularly comfortable this weekend," Ricciardo said.
Kvyat led Q1 but McLaren`s Jenson Button scraped into Q2 by just 74 thousandths of a second when he secured 15th quickest in the first qualifying session.
Button`s last-gasp time knocked Sauber`s Felipe Nasr out of the running with Marcus Ericsson, Pastor Maldonado, Will Stevens and American debutant Alexander Rossi also missing out.
Carlos Sainz effectively brought Q2 to a close when he hit a wall late in the session, leaving bodywork on the track and bringing out the yellow flags ordering cars to slow down.
McLaren`s Fernando Alonso and Button were among the five denied a spot in the top-10 shoot-out, alongside Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Sainz.