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Nico Rosberg will start from pole position for the fifth grand prix in succession after a powerful Q3 performance in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

Having been out-paced by Hamilton in the preceding FP3 session, Rosberg spent the first stages of qualifying playing second fiddle to his team-mate again as the new champion topped both Q1 and Q2.

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However, Rosberg would ultimately save his best for last, setting the initial benchmark of 1min 11.461secs on his first run in Q3, before slashing two more tenths off his margin on the second run, stopping the clock at 1min 11.282secs.

Indeed, Hamilton though also improved on his second attempt and clawed back a tenth in the final sector alone, he was ultimately left eight hundredths adrift of Rosberg, the German notching up a fifth pole position in a row and the 21st of his F1 career.

As anticipated, Mercedes were once again clear of the chasing pack, with Sebastian Vettel a 'lonely' third in the Ferrari, half a second behind Hamilton but almost three tenths clear of fourth place Valtteri Bottas.

With the Finn set to take a three-place grid penalty, he will be leapfrogged on the grid by Kimi Raikkonen, who takes up a spot on row two as a result, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat, the pair impressing in Q3 to take up row three at the behest of Bottas for Force India and Red Bull.

Despite the penalty - for overtaking under red flags in FP2 -, Bottas will nonetheless still start ahead of Felipe Massa, the local hero just squeezing into Q3 and then doing enough to secure eighth on a weekend he has struggled to get the Williams working to his liking.

Daniel Ricciardo ended the session ninth fastest, but will be demoted ten positions after taking a pre-weekend engine change, while Max Verstappen couldn't make a single lap effort in the Toro Rosso count as he brought up the Q3 rear in tenth.

With only a few tenths covering much of the mid-field after practice, the contest to reach Q2 was tighter than usual, with local hero Felipe Nasr just missing out on Q3 in 11th. Even so, the Brazilian's position could be under threat after blocking countryman Massa in Q1, an infringement that is currently being considered by the stewards for potential punishment.

Unable to match team-mate Verstappen again, Carlos Sainz was 12th fastest, while Sergio Perez will start outside the top ten for only the second time since Hungary after struggling to get the Force India working over a single lap. Behind them, Marcus Ericsson qualified 14th in the second of the Saubers, while Lotus' Romain Grosjean brought up the rear in Q2 after spinning at turn seven on his fast lap.

Earlier on in the session, Fernando Alonso and McLaren-Honda's dismal season took yet another downward turn as the Spaniard was forced to park up with his second mechanical problem of the weekend. Making light of the situation, Alonso proceeded to parody the widely-shared image of him 'sitting despondently' a day earlier by taking up a deckchair and enjoying the rest of Q1 in the sun.

With team-mate Jenson Button also failing to progress beyond Q1, the pair then jumped onto the podium in front of amused fans. Regardless of the light-hearted reaction to another early exit, the pair are set to start the penultimate round of the season from 17th (16th after Ricciardo's penalty) and 20th respectively.

Joining them towards the back of the field will be Pastor Maldonado, who compounded Lotus's disappointing day en route to 16th, while Alexander Rossi again got the better of Manor team-mate Will Stevens for 18th.