Felipe Massa backed up his words that should he emerge victorious in this year's Formula 1 World Championship he will be a worthy title-winner, by blitzing the field to record pole position for the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix this weekend.

The Ferrari star put almost seven tenths of a second between himself and his chief rival for the crown, McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, as the pair prepare to battle tooth-and-nail for the honour of triumphing in the first night race to be held in the sport's 58-year history.

Adrian Sutil - whose team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella had come heavily into contact with the wall in morning practice after his Force India bounced across the circuit's harsh, unforgiving kerbs at the chicane - was the first man out on-track in Q1. The Italian's car, meanwhile, was still being worked on as the session dawned.

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Kimi Raikkonen was perhaps a surprise early appearance in Q1, the defending F1 World Champion having similarly gone off earlier in practice and looking to turn around a three-race non-scoring streak at the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit this weekend.

Timo Glock, a troubled David Coulthard, Kazuki Nakajima, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were also quick to show their hands, with Raikkonen's poor opening salvo seeing the Finn lap just sixth-quickest, ahead of only Sutil.

Heikki Kovalainen soon blew Glock's fastest effort out of the water, with Massa sitting just third - behind the Toyota - before the sport's newest winner Sebastian Vettel went P1 again, only to be just as rapidly displaced by Hamilton, as McLaren-Mercedes assertively threw down the gauntlet to rivals Ferrari.

Practice pace-setter Fernando Alonso was next out - lapping a fraction under half a second shy of Hamilton's mega lap, and slower than he had gone in the morning - whilst with half of Q1 left to go the two scarlet machines sat incredibly just eighth and 13th on the timing screens.

Coulthard, S?bastien Bourdais, Button - surprisingly - Sutil and Fisichella at this stage sat in the drop zone, as no one seemed able to hold a candle to Hamilton up front, and a clearly frustrated Barrichello found a pitting Nick Heidfeld right in his way as the experienced Brazilian came up to complete his lap - corroborating drivers' earlier concerns that the racing line entry to the pit-lane is 'dangerous' [see separate story - click here].

An improvement from Button, meanwhile, pushed Raikkonen into the Q1 drop, with the sister F2008 of Massa only four spots further up the order in twelfth. With Hamilton electing not to go out again, Kovalainen took a further two tenths of a second off the target time, setting the quickest lap of the weekend to-date.

With three minutes remaining, Raikkonen went out for another effort, but the yellow flags flew as Fisichella locked up at the exit of turn three and again clattered into the barriers. That failed to impede the Ferrari, though, whose driver leapt to the top of the timing screens, with Massa similarly improving to fourth, and Barrichello finding himself in the danger area.

Coulthard and Bourdais both ventured out in an effort to hoist themselves to safety, and a poor final effort from Nelsinho Piquet in the Renault - eight tenths slower than he had gone during morning practice - saw the Scot sneak in by a scant nine thousandths of a second, as a lurid, rally-crossing Bourdais unfortunately missed the cut.

The Frenchman was left complaining about serious handling problems with his STR3, as others in the wars included a 180-degree spinning Alonso and Nico Rosberg, who went straight on but narrowly kept his Williams out of the wall. Both, though, were safely through to Q2.

The top ten at the end of Q1 read Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Hamilton, Massa, Robert Kubica, Alonso, Vettel, Rosberg, the impressive Nakajima and Glock, with Piquet, Bourdais, Barrichello, Sutil and the luckless Fisichella all ending their qualifying sessions there.

Kovalainen was the first man out in Q2, with fellow Q1 pace-setter Raikkonen rapidly following suit, but there was drama shortly afterwards when Alonso's Renault broke down on-track with a fuel supply problem, consigning one of the strongest tips for pole position to 15th place on the grid, as the R?gie's battle with Toyota for the highly-prized fourth spot in the constructors' rankings began to unravel.

With both McLarens struggling to find pace, Raikkonen pipped Vettel to the top spot by a mere three thousandths of a second, before Massa leapfrogged them all to steal P1, and the advantage swung back towards the Scuderia once again.

That left, incredibly, the two McLarens and two BMWs keeping Alonso company in the Q2 drop, with Kubica the first to haul himself up to safety in fourth, and Heidfeld popping up just behind in fifth, a tenth adrift of the Pole.

Those improvements dropped Button and Jarno Trulli into the drop zone, as Kovalainen set out on a committed effort, completing the lap just over two tenths away from Massa and making it two Toyotas in the danger zone.

With just over two minutes remaining, Hamilton - on the soft tyres to his team-mate's harder rubber - began his final two-lap effort, though it was a scrappy and traffic-afflicted lap for the world championship leader as he bade desperately to get himself into the top ten, the first effort ultimately leaving him a less-than-entirely-safe eighth.

As Trulli found a bucket-load of time to vault into ninth spot, however - pushing Coulthard out of the top ten, with the sister Toyota of Glock doing likewise to the second RBR of Webber - Hamilton found himself in danger once more, and with Coulthard in his way on a last lap that had to be aborted.

Nakajima then demoted the McLaren ace to tenth, leaving him nervously on the bubble as both RBRs continued on their final efforts, but fortunately for the Briton both failed to improve, and a repeat of his Monza Q2 nightmare was narrowly averted - as his championship nemesis Massa ended the session on top.

Behind the Brazilian sat Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Rosberg, Glock, Kubica, Heidfeld, Nakajima and Hamilton, with Trulli, Button, Webber, Coulthard and the unfortunate Alonso missing out - and Hamilton doubtless well aware that had his former team-mate not fallen foul of unreliability, the championship leader would be facing a very bleak grand prix indeed.

Vettel was the first man on-circuit in Q3, as a chastened and doubtless rattled Hamilton attempted to overturn the seven tenths deficit that had separated him from team-mate Kovalainen in Q2. Raikkonen got very out of shape through the final corner but was still quickest, before Hamilton answered his critics with a lap four tenths faster still, only for Massa to see off the pair of them as Kovalainen languished down at the wrong end of the order, with less than three minutes left on the clock.

Heidfeld was at this stage out-pacing BMW team-mate Kubica in fifth and sixth positions respectively, with Rosberg and Glock provisionally on row four, ahead of Nakajima and Kovalainen - who now had just one flying lap left to state his case.

Raikkonen took the fight to Hamilton on his final effort, but Massa was quicker once again, as the top three went at it hammer-and-tongs for the top spot on the starting grid. Raikkonen briefly demoted Hamilton to row two, but Hamilton then pinched pole as the crowd waited with baited breath for Massa to cross the line.

When the Brazilian did so, it was to complete without doubt one of the finest laps of the season to blow his title rival away to the tune of almost seven tenths of a second. Behind Raikkonen in third, late improvements from Kubica, Kovalainen and Heidfeld saw the trio annex fourth to sixth places respectively, with Vettel and Glock set to share the fourth row of the grid and the Williams' of Rosberg and Nakajima rounding out the top ten - the best qualifying position of the young Japanese rookie's fledgling career in the top flight, and the first time both FW30s have made Q3 in 2008, appropriately on Sir Frank Williams' final paddock appearance of the campaign.

To see the qualifying times in full, click here