Champion elect Kamui Kobayashi will start the opening GP2 Asia Series race of the weekend in Bahrain from pole position despite only setting the second quickest time in qualifying at the Middle East venue.

Kobayashi's DAMS team-mate Jerome D'Ambrosio had actually set the quickest time during the session, marking the second successive weekend he had led the way in qualifying, but a ten place grid penalty imposed on the Belgian for his incident in the feature race last time out at Sepang will move him back down the order.

The resulting two point bonus will therefore go to Kobayashi, extending his championship lead going into the final two races of the year.

"It's an ideal start for the team and by setting off from pole, our aim will be victory," he said. "Track conditions are good; the circuit suits me and I hope to finish at the front. If incidents interfere with my race, I have to think of the title and not risk any collisions by going for victory at all costs."

Roldan Rodriguez was third quickest for Piquet GP and will now start alongside Kobayashi on the front row, followed by Diego Nunes and Pastor Maldonado on the times. However, Maldonado was handed a five place penalty following the qualifying session and, like D'Ambrosio, will drop down the order as a result.

Luiz Razia was sixth quickest on the times but will make up two places before the race even begins due to the penalties ahead, while Giedo van der Garde, Davide Valsecchi, Javier Villa and Alvaro Parente rounded out the top ten on the timesheets. Parente could well have been higher on the grid had he not been baulked on his quickest lap by Maldonado.

While Kobayashi moved closer to the title with his pole, there was more bad luck for Vitaly Petrov, and after managing only a handful of laps during free practice, he made a wrong choice on tyres and could qualify only 20th on the grid.