Nico H?lkenberg defied the blistering conditions to continue where he left off this morning and claim pole position for Saturday's race one in Valencia, ahead of title rivals Vitaly Petrov and Lucas di Grassi.

The German was at the sharp end of the timesheets throughout the session, but his best lap of 1 minute 45.025 seconds set late in the period put him four tenths ahead of his rivals and, when Petrov was struck down with an electrical gremlin and had to stop in the pits, the war was over.

Luca Filippi and di Grassi set the early running, but normal service soon returned as Petrov and H?lkenberg made the battle their own.

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Indeed the pair seemed to be on a different circuit to their rivals, who were unable to get close to the laps the title contenders were pulling in.

Filippi looked to get a jump on the field by getting out early on fresh tyres while the others sat in the pits, but the plan failed when he had a heavy shunt at turn 20, shattering his car and bringing out the red flags.

Thankfully he was unhurt, but the rest of the field had to sit in the oppressive heat of their cars while the track was cleared.

The remaining bunch then sprinted out, with most improving their times, including H?lkenberg. Petrov looked to be catching him until he unexpectedly returned to the pits, and after a call onto the weighbridge was unable to restart the car due to an electrical problem.

H?lkenberg continued to circulate after that in case of emergency, but as the clock ran out the pole was his.

Behind the top three Sergio Perez returned to form with a fine fourth place, just ahead of Roldan Rodriguez, Alvaro Parente, Dani Clos and Karun Chandhok, but with the three title contenders in the first three positions it's fair to say that tomorrow all eyes will be glued to the front of the grid as the lights go out.

To see the full qualifying times click here