Lewis Hamilton shattered the circuit record to take his 71st career pole position and his first at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who will drop five places owing to his grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change earlier in the weekend.
Sebastian Vettel will join his title rival on the front row after finishing third behind the Mercedes duo as the Ferraris had no answer to the Silver Arrows' pace. The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will occupy the second row of the grid owing to Bottas' penalty.
The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen could only manage sixth and, following his penalty – also due to a gearbox change – after his crash in third practice, he will lose five places and start in 11th place. The Finn risked missing out on qualifying, but the team got his car ready in time and he, along with Bottas, will start on the soft compound tyres, unlike the rest of the top 10 who will be on the supersoft tyres.
There was hardly any doubt about Hamilton taking his first pole position in Suzuka after his first lap in the supersoft tyres in the second session of qualifying when he broke the circuit record with a time of 1.27.8. He just went from strength to strength in the final part of the session as he set the fastest-ever lap – a 1.27.3 – in his final run to seal top spot.
The Mercedes cars look a cut above the rest and, despite Ferrari showing through the season that they are stronger on Sunday – in the race – than on Saturday, it is going to be difficult to stop Hamilton if he makes a good start and takes the lead after the opening lap.
Meanwhile, the penalties to Bottas and Raikkonen will see the Force India duo of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez move up to the third row of the grid, while the Mercedes driver will occupy the fourth row alongside Felipe Massa.
Stoffel Vandoorne and Nico Hulkenburg also move into the top 10, with Fernando Alonso dropping out owing to his 35-place grid penalty. Raikkonen's penalty will see him drop out of the top 10 and on to the sixth row alongside Kevin Magnussen.
It is expected to be a dry race on Sunday with no rains predicted. However, a change in weather could help the likes of Red Bull, who do not have the pace to match either Mercedes or Ferrari.