Almost before anyone could blink, Q3 was underway, with the top three from the previous session - Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton - leading the way, still on the intermediates. Rosberg banked the first flying lap of 1:33.684s but soon Vettel was on provisional pole with a time of 1:32.604s. Banker laps in the books, it was finally time for all the teams to throw the dice and see if it was finally time for the supersofts to show what they could do in the final moments of the ten-minute session.
Button's first slick lap clocked in at 1:32.485s, but he'd gone too soon and Hamilton annihilated that with his own effort of 1:29.184s. But that was quickly dismissed by Vettel who set the new benchmark seconds later with a lap of 1:27.407s, which only his team mate Webber looked close to topping until the Australian lost the backend of the Red Bull in a lurid power drift through turn 15 which meant he crossed the line four tenths behind.
As the chequered flag welcomes the other cars completing their final runs of the morning, it was clear that Vettel and Webber had between them achieved a Red Bull front row lock out. Lewis Hamilton captured an impressive third on his début for Mercedes and will start alongside Felipe Massa, who had out-qualified his Ferrari team mate Alonso by a mere three thousandths of a second.
After leading so convincingly in the early, wetter conditions in Q1 and Q2, Nico Rosberg could only manage a slightly disappointing sixth place on the grid alongside Alonso, while row four was an all-Lotus affair with Kimi Raikkonen just ahead of Romain Grosjean. Behind them, Jenson Button had indeed gone too early in Q3 and ended up with the slowest time of the ten runners, putting him just behind Force India's Paul di Resta.
Qualifying finally completed, the drivers and teams now had just over five hours to reset themselves and get ready for lights out: it might not have been smooth sailing up to now, but finally things were back on track for the start of the Australian Grand Prix!
See full qualifying times