Sebastian Vettel withstood the Ferrari assault to claim pole position for the opening round of the new Formula One season, posting the fastest time in the third and final phase of a qualifying session dominated by Red Bull and the Scuderia.

Having ruled Q2, the German - who enters the season on the back of victory in the final round of 2009 - waited until the final few minutes of the session before venturing out, but made the most of his single flying lap to clock 1min 54.101secs.

Behind him, however, Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, as well as Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber were still on track, but they could only manage second, third and sixth respectively, jostling interloper Lewis Hamilton into fourth and allowing Nico Rosberg to claim fifth on his debut for Mercedes.

Rosberg again had the upper hand on veteran team-mate Michael Schumacher, who improved as the last man across the line to bump reigning world champion Jenson Button out of seventh place, while Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil - who held third spot for a time - completed the top ten order.

Each of the drivers will now have to start Sunday's race on the tyres with which they set their fastest time, but all appear poised to take to the grid on the less-favourable soft compound and run short stints before their first pit-stops.

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