Sebastian Vettel posted the quickest time when it really mattered to secure pole for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim - giving the Red Bull man his third successive pole position and sixth of the 2010 season.

As anticipated, the battle for pole came down to a straight fight between Red Bull and Ferrari after the two teams led the way through the three free practice sessions.

Fernando Alonso led the way through both Q1 and Q2 as he looked to secure a first pole for Ferrari since 2008 and the Spaniard set the early benchmark in Q3 before the drivers elected to pit for fresh tyres ahead of one final run for pole.

Vettel headed onto the circuit for his final run ahead of the other drivers in contention for pole and stormed to a best time of 1min 13.791secs to move to the head of the pack. Alonso however was still coming quickly behind and took the chequered flag just 0.002secs behind the German.

While that prevented Alonso from securing pole, the Spaniard was able to console himself in the fact that second still marks his best qualifying performance of the season.

The top two proved to be in a class of their own as the only two drivers to lap below the 1min 14secs marker, with Felipe Massa third but half a second back. Mark Webber meanwhile had to settle for fourth place, with his hope of fighting for pole coming to an end when he ran wide exiting turn one on his final quick lap and was forced to abort his run.

McLaren proved to be best of the rest with Jenson Button managing to outqualify Lewis Hamilton for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix back in April. Despite struggling with the balance of his car during practice, Button was able to lap a tenth of a second quicker than Hamilton, while Robert Kubica followed the pair in seventh for Renault.

Rubens Barrichello was eighth for Williams as the team got both cars through to Q3, with Nico Hulkenberg in tenth. Countryman Nico Rosberg was ninth and split the Williams duo although he was unable to match the kind of performance shown by the Mercedes team during practice.

The performance of Mercedes was one of the big disappointments of the session as Rosberg's team-mate Michael Schumacher failed to make it through to Q3. The seven-time champion found himself on the bubble in the closing stages of Q2 and was knocked out by Hulkenberg to leave him eleventh on the grid, just ahead of the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.

Both Schumacher and Kobayashi were left to rue errors in the closing stages of Q2 that prevented them from making it into the race for pole, with the duo within 0.070secs of making it into the top-ten shootout.

Vitaly Petrov was 13th quickest ahead of a disappointed Adrian Sutil, who will also take a five place grid penalty thanks to his car requiring a new gearbox after final practice. Pedro de la Rosa and Toro Rosso duo Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi also fell at the second hurdle.

There was little surprise to see the three new teams all fall in Q1, but Tonio Liuzzi had hoped to make it higher than 22nd on the grid. The Italian however crashed out of Q1 after losing control of his Force India exiting the final corner, hitting the pit wall and ripping a wheel from the car which Timo Glock was lucky to avoid collecting. Liuzzi was at least quicker than Sakon Yamamoto while Lucas di Grassi missed the session due to a gearbox problem.

The fight to secure honours amongst the new teams went the way of Lotus as Jarno Trulli outpaced team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, with Timo Glock just behind in third and Bruno Senna barely two-tenths of a second behind the German.