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A blistering lap from Lewis Hamilton has seen him take his fourth consecutive pole position of the season ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel will start alongside him on the front row.

A thrilling qualifying session that built to a crescendo as Mercedes fended off the looming threat coming from Ferrari, Vettel set the standard on his final run with a 1min 32.982secs lap, an effort that was good enough to resist Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes driver falling two tenths short.

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However, with Hamilton last to complete his lap, the defending champion and series leader would once more exercise his superiority over a single lap, stopping the clock at 1min 32.571secs - four tenths faster than Vettel and more than half a second clear of the increasingly under pressure Rosberg.

Four out of four in qualifying for Hamilton so far in 2015, Vettel's presence on the front row nonetheless confirms the massive strides made by Ferrari in recent races. Furthermore, the result puts him in a good position for the race having shown arguably more comparable pace against Mercedes over the longer stints in practice.

Though unable to get amongst the top three, fourth place nonetheless marks Kimi Raikkonen's best starting position since the 2013 German Grand Prix.

Williams lock out row three, with Valtteri Bottas this time getting the better of Felipe Massa, while Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo put aside an interrupted FP3 session earlier to lead the 'best of the rest' in the midfield in seventh.

Behind him, Nico Hulkenberg gave Force India a surprise first shot at Q3 for 2015, the German proceeding to take the VJM08 to the fourth row, ahead of Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz in ninth and Lotus' Romain Grosjean rounding out the top ten.

With just eight tenths covering seventh down to 18th after FP3, Q2 proved as competitive as expected, with very little to choose between the mid-field runners right down to the chequered flag.

Indeed, with Force India stepping up its performance to battle for Q3, McLaren was also notable for making a significant step forward for qualifying, with Fernando Alonso reaching Q2 comfortably with the ninth best time in Q1.

Though that didn't translate to getting the MP4-30 into a surprise Q3 spot, he will nonetheless start in an improved 14th place, behind Sergio Perez in 11th, Felipe Nasr in 12th and Marcus Ericsson in 13th, the latter Sauber cars losing out in the final flurry of laps. With his team-mate inside the top ten, Max Verstappen starts in 15th.

Having been top ten throughout free practice, Lotus' Pastor Maldonado was a surprise casualty in Q1, the Venezuelan complaining of engine issues as he floundered in 16th, while Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat had an error in the first sector to blame for him being eliminated in 17th place.

It is the first time a Red Bull driver has been knocked out of Q1 (excusing post-qualifying penalties or exclusions) since the 2012 European Grand Prix when Mark Webber qualified 19th after suffering with DRS issues.

Not given the opportunity to mirror Alonso's performance, Jenson Button will start from the back of the grid after yet more technical issues struck his McLaren-Honda and brought him to a halt. It means he will start 20th, behind the Manor cars of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.