Sebastian Vettel made it five poles in six grands prix this season, albeit from a qualifying session marred by a frightening accident involving Mexican rookie Sergio Perez.
In the top-10 shoot-out for tomorrow's Monaco Grand Prix, Vettel had just scorched to the top of the timesheet with a lap of one minute 13.556secs when Perez smashed into a barrier at the harbour chicane.
The session had to be halted for a total of 38 minutes as Perez was first treated trackside before being taken to a nearby medical centre, following which repairs were carried out to the barrier.
With two minutes and 26 seconds remaining at that time, it left Lewis Hamilton in trouble as he had yet to set a timed lap by the time of the accident.
The 26-year-old in his McLaren could only qualify seventh, 1.7secs adrift of reigning champion Vettel for Red Bull, with Jenson Button second on the grid and Mark Webber third.
Overall, it is Red Bull's sixth pole position in six races, and eight in eight stretching to the back end of last season.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who had looked the man to beat during practice, could only manage fourth in his Ferrari, with Michael Schumacher fifth ahead of the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
Behind Hamilton in seventh will be Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes, his team performing wonders to ensure he was able to take part in qualifying following his crash in final practice that wrecked his car.
Like Perez after him, Rosberg crashed into a barrier emerging out of the tunnel at 180mph before hurtling down the hill towards the harbour chicane where he narrowly avoided a head-on impact with another barrier.
The mechanics then worked through lunch to ensure Rosberg made it out on track, and the German did not disappoint.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado will start ninth, with Perez 10th at this stage, pending an injury report after his horrific accident.
Perez lost control and was unable to do anything as he hurtled towards an impact-absorbing techpro barrier at the foot of the hill.
Earlier Rosberg's was sent airborne by two feet after hitting one of the speed bumps that had initially lay across the harbour chicane - but were subsequently removed.
As it transpired, that was the correct decision because as Perez slid sideways he could easily have been flipped onto his side had he struck one of those bumps.
Instead, the right side of his car took the full impact as it flew into the barrier, the 21-year-old putting his hands around his head to protect himself.
Marshals, reputed to be the best in the world, were quickly on the scene, and it became apparent very quickly Perez's accident was serious.
Initially, around 20 marshals formed a guard around the car as the paramedics carried out their duties, and then a white tarpaulin was held above the scene to block out any prying cameras.
From the moment of impact to Perez being placed inside the awaiting ambulance and eventutally taken to the medical centre, 15 minutes passed.
As the car was hoisted away, it showed there was nothing left of the right-hand side, although the monocoque was intact.
Perez's father was then seen walking down the pit lane to the medical centre to be with his son.
Reports then emerged that the driver was "conscious and speaking", with unconfirmed suggestions he had suffered a leg injury.
Overall, there was a delay of 38 minutes before the session could be restarted, the marshals carrying out sterling work to repair the barrier.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov led the list of those who exited Q2 at the end of the 15 minutes, with the Russian starting from 11th ahead of Rubens Barrichello in his Williams and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi.
For the fifth time in six races in his rookie year, Paul di Resta managed to out-qualify Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil.
It was a remarkable achievement given Di Resta had not set a wheel on the track for six years until taking part in Thursday practice.
The Scot, however, bettered his team-mate by just three thousandths of a second and will start 14th, with Sutil 15th, followed by Nick Heidfeld in his Renault and the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.
Neither of Hispania Racing's cars were involved in Q1, with the team unable to repair Vitantonio Liuzzi's car after his accident towards the end of the final practice session. As for Narain Karthikeyan, a rear suspension failure prevented the Indian driver from taking part.
In not setting any time, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan are now at the mercy of the stewards who must now decide whether they can take part in the race.
For the opening 20 minutes that left just 22 cars fighting it out on track, and whilst it was no surprise to see the Lotus and Virgin cars dislodged, there was a shock as Jaime Alguersuari dropped out.
With the Lotus duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli ahead of him in 18th and 19th, 20th on the grid equals the Spaniard's worst slot of his F1 career set in Italy in 2009. To add to his woes, he is also due to face the stewards after hitting a Sauber going through La Rascasse.
Behind him are the Virgio pair of Timo Glock and Jerome D'Ambrosio, both comfortably within the 107% time.
Expressing his sentiments towards Perez, Vettel said: "The most important thing is that Sergio is okay, that he is conscious.
"We're all thinking of him, we wish him the best and hopefully he can start the race tomorrow.
"I had to wait a long time to get the pole, but I'm very pleased."
Button, who endured his own shunt at the same spot eight years ago, said: "It's great that Sergio is okay and talking.
"I was the last person to go in there in 2003, and I know how much it hurts, so hopefully he'll be okay."
Webber added: "Sergio had a tough crash, our thoughts are with him. He is in great hands, and I'm sure he'll be back.
"Looking at safety it's one area we can look at for the future."Reuse content