The last man to progress to the final stage of qualifying was Force India's Paul di Resta, leaving his team mate Adrian Sutil
eliminated along with both Toro Rossos, both Saubers - and Jenson Button
who had only managed a lacklustre 14th place by the finish, meaning that he been thoroughly outshone by his young team mate for the first time.
Kimi Raikkonen continued to be one of the early risers, quickly taking to the track on a brand-new set of medium-compound Pirellis before the traffic became a problem. Nico Rosberg
and Romain Grosjean
soon followed him out along with Fernando Alonso
and Felipe Massa, and after their flurry of initial laps the whip hand and provisional pole firmly belonged to Rosberg with a time of 1:20.824s four tenths ahead of Alonso, Massa, Grosjean and Raikkonen.
Everyone retired back to their garages after this, with the track briefly completely empty before it fell to Raikkonen to fire up his engine and return to the fray: he kicked off the second and final sequence of runs with three minutes remaining in Q3, everyone soon following suit and streaming out of pit lane.
It was soon clear that no one had enough to usurp Rosberg from the top spot - although the German himself shaved a little off his pole time to raise the bar still further to 1:20.718s in his final run which kept him ahead of his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton
who saw off Sebastian Vettel
and Kimi Raikkonen's final efforts of the afternoon. Alonso was pushed back to the third row which he will share with his team mate Felipe Massa, while immediately behind them Romain Grosjean
will line up alongside Mark Webber. Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta rounded out the top ten, the only cars to fair to dip under the 82-second mark in the final stage of qualifying.
See full qualifying times