Vettel captures fourth straight Japanese GP pole

Two-time defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth consecutive pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix after topping his Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber, in Saturday's qualifying.

Vettel's lap time in 1 minute, 30.839 seconds at Suzuka Circuit earned the 25- year-old German his 34th career F1 pole, which put him in sole possession of third on the all-time pole winners list.

"I'm very, very happy with today's result," Vettel said. "I think we had a very, very smooth qualifying session, nearly perfect. So we really couldn't ask for more. The car felt fantastic from the start."

Vettel turned in the quickest lap during the final practice session for the Japanese GP earlier in the day. He won this grand prix in 2009 and '10 before placing third in it last year.

Two weeks ago, Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix and moved to within 29 points of leader Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.

Vettel's qualifying lap was 0.25 seconds faster than Webber. It's the first time this season that Red Bull has secured the front starting row.

"It's been a good weekend for us so far," Webber said. "I'm happy to be on the front row and looking forward to a good result tomorrow. For the team, it's just a great tonic for them, at this point in the championship, to have the cars towards the front again."

Red Bull also ended McLaren's streak of four pole wins in a row. Jenson Button from McLaren qualified third but received a five-grid spot penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Button, who is the defending race winner, will start eighth.

"It was a good qualifying run for us, just a pity we're starting back in eighth," Button said. "This place is such a nice place to fight for a win. It's going to be very difficult for me tomorrow but never say never. There's always possibilities, and I think we have a good race car."

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi will start third, followed by Romain Grosjean from Lotus and Kobayashi's teammate, Sergio Perez, who will replace Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season when Hamilton moves over to Mercedes.

Alonso qualified seventh after his final lap in Q3 was impeded due to a yellow flag brought out when Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen spun around. Alonso will start sixth based on Button's penalty.

"What can I say, other than get angry about being unlucky," Alonso said. "The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment, when I was coming out of turn 14. Up until then, my lap was great, and there was a chance of setting the fourth fast time of the day, which would have seen me start from third on the grid."

Raikkonen will roll off seventh, while Hamilton will start ninth after winning the pole in the last two grand prix -- Italy and Singapore. Hamilton had his final qualifying lap hindered from the yellow flag as well.

Michael Schumacher, who announced his retirement at season's end earlier this week, qualified 13th but dropped 10-grid spots for the penalty he received for causing an accident during the Singapore GP. Hamilton is taking over Schumacher's ride at Mercedes next year.

Sunday's 53-lap Japanese GP is scheduled to start at 2 a.m. (ET).