Rubens Barrichello emerged from a chaotic, rain-affected qualifying session with the pole position for his hometown Brazilian Grand Prix, and the only Formula One title contender in the top 10 on Saturday.
Brawn GP teammate and championship leader Jenson Button will start in 14th place and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in 16th. Both drivers struggled in a qualifying session which was interrupted twice by red flags and delayed several times because of treacherous track conditions at Interlagos.
Button can clinch the title by finishing third or better in Sunday's race.
The 37-year-old Barrichello clocked 1 minute, 19.576 seconds under extremely wet conditions on the 2.6-mile track, 0.092 ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and 0.336 in front of Force India's Adrian Sutil.
Qualifying began under heavy rain, which flooded parts of the track and caused near zero visibility.
The session was red-flagged less than five minutes after it started because Ferrari driver Giancarlo Fisichella spun and stopped in the middle of a corner in a dangerous position. Officials waited about 15 minutes to restart the session until conditions improved.
The second session also was delayed for nearly 20 minutes as it continued to rain heavily in South America's biggest city, and it was stopped less than three minutes after it restarted because Force India driver Vitantonio Liuzzi crashed hard after spinning out of control in Turn 1.
It took more than an hour before the cars returned to the track again in slightly better conditions.
Vettel's chances of winning the title took a big hit when he failed to advance from the first qualifying session. The German was boosted by a victory at the Japanese GP two weeks ago and needed a good starting position on Sunday to keep his hopes alive. He has to win the race and hope Button finishes sixth or worse.
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton was another who struggled and failed to advance from the first session. He will start 18th in the 20-car grid.
In one of his attempts to improve his time, Hamilton ran off the track and just barely kept control of his car as it skidded across huge puddles on the infield grass, splashing water everywhere.