Charles Pic put in a flying lap of 1:46.675s with just two minutes to go before the end of qualifying, to pip his team mate Giedo van der Garde to pole position by just 0.052s and give the Spanish Barwa Addax team a 1-2 at their home event in Valencia.
The top three cars were all within one tenth of a second of each other, with Dams' Romain Grosjean pushing the Barwa Addax duo all the way until the final minute, when he managed to crash heavily in turn 5 and bring out the second red flag of the qualifying period. The session did not restart after that, thwarting anyone with aspirations of making a late challenge for the top positions.
Grosjean had put in an early fast lap of 1:47.444s but then saw first Esteban Gutierrez and then Charles Pic go faster, Pic becoming the first person to dip below the 1:47 mark all day. Davide Valsecchi, Sam Bird and Giedo van der Garde also put in fast laps during this early phase and pushed Grosjean further down to sixth place, before Dani Clos then went second with a 1:47.041.
During the middle section of qualifying, van der Garde went top 12 minutes into the half-hour session with a 1:46.727 finally displacing Pic from the top. That would prove to be his best effort of the afternoon, while Grosjean improved his own time to 1:46.771s just 0.044s back before a red flag for a spin by Johnny Cecotto at turn 2 briefly interrupted proceedings with under ten minutes still on the clock interrupted fast laps for many of the drivers.
Once qualifying resumed under green flag conditions, Luca Filippi leapt up into fourth place while Pic would prove to be able to up his game still further in the remaining ten minutes and go fastest of all just before Grosjean's crash brought out the red flags and ended the session a minute prematurely.
Jules Bianchi was not able to follow-up his strong practice performance and ended up ninth on the grid after his final flying lap saw a great first sector which then fell away sharply in the second. Alvaro Parente will start from 13th on his début for Carlin, while Christian Vietoris will be in 15th place on his return to duty for Racing Engineering.
The start of the feature race on Saturday afternoon will follow F1 qualifying, at 2.40pm.
Full qualifying times and positions