Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel claimed his third consecutive pole after topping Lewis Hamilton from McLaren in the closing seconds of Saturday's qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel, the defending Formula One world champion, posted a time of one minute, 34.870 seconds on his final lap at the tricky 3.444-mile (5.543-kilometer) Sepang International Circuit. The young German had struggled somewhat in the three practices for the Malaysian GP.
"I was happy with the car, but we never really got into a rhythm," Vettel said. "It was very close in the end with the McLaren guys, so I'm happy to get the pole."
Vettel started on the pole and won the 2010 season-finale in Abu Dhabi and then did the same two weeks ago in this season's opening round in Melbourne, Australia. He is the defending winner of the Malaysian GP.
Hamilton qualified one-tenth of a second behind Vettel to claim the outside pole. He started second and finished in the same position in Melbourne.
"I'm really happy to be up on the front row," Hamilton said. "Hopefully, I'll have a better start than I did in Melbourne, so we can have more of a fight. I'll get a chance to compete with Sebastian at the first corner and for the first couple of laps."
Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, qualified third, while McLaren's Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso from Ferrari rounded out the top-five.
"I knew it would be very tight," Webber said. "Everyone was on a single pace after the first flying lap on the option tire in Q3. It was pretty straight forward for us."
Renault's Nick Heidfeld took the sixth position, followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Heidfeld's teammate, Vitaly Petrov, who finished an impressive third in the Australian GP.
Nico Rosberg from Mercedes GP and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi completed the top-10.
For the second straight grand prix, Mercedes' Michael Schumacher failed to advance into the third and final qualifying session. Schumacher, the seven- time F1 titleholder, will start 11th.
All 24 drivers in qualifying made the starting grid for the Malaysian GP. HRT drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan did not qualify for the Australian GP after posting inadequate times in the first qualifying segment for that event. They did not meet the new 107 percent lap time rule in Q1. Liuzzi and Karthikeyan will start 23rd and 24th, respectively, in Sunday's 56- lap race, which is scheduled to start at 4:00 a.m. (et).