Australian Mark Webber took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix Saturday and ended Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel's bid for a sixth in succession.
Formula One world champion Vettel, winner of three of the first four races of the season from pole as well as last year's finale in Abu Dhabi, will start alongside Webber with dominant Red Bull chasing a second one-two finish in a row.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, delighted after what he said was a 'perfect lap' in front of his home crowd, will line up together on the second row Sunday.
"I don't think we can speak of big disappointment, we made a good step forward," said Vettel, who will still be making his 10th successive front-row start and has a 34-point advantage over Hamilton at the top of the standings.
"I think he (Webber) deserved pole. He did a better job today," added the 23-year-old, who revealed he had not been able to use the KERS system that gives a brief power boost at the push of a button.
The Australian has yet to win a race this season but was triumphant last year from pole position at a circuit where the winner has started in the top slot for all of the past decade.
However, the new moveable rear wing (DRS), kinetic energy recovery system and quick-wearing Pirelli tyres should make Sunday's race far less predictable with plenty of overtaking and pitstops expected.
"I can go and relax tonight, have a good sleep and come back and do the best job I can tomorrow," Webber said after his first pole since Belgium last August and seventh of his career.
He had been fastest throughout practice Friday and, with drivers keen to save their soft tyres for the race knowing that the harder tyres carried with them a big drop-off in performance, wrapped up pole with his one flying lap in the final qualifying session.
The Australian was parked up in the garage and out of the car with more than a minute of the session remaining, with McLaren recognising the futility of making any attempt to wrest pole from him.
Both the Red Bull and McLaren drivers managed to save a set of new soft tyres for the race.
"I think it was pretty clear going into qualifying we might have had a bit of a margin," said Webber after his lap of one minute 20.981 seconds, two tenths faster than Vettel and nearly a second quicker than Hamilton.
"So it was probably going to be down to Seb and I, maybe, for the front row. Without being arrogant, but it just looked like that."
Hamilton, the winner in China in April, agreed. "They have got a second (advantage) in qualifying, probably a second and a bit," he said. "But we will push as hard as we can."
Alonso's grid position was Ferrari's best of the season but he will have one less set of fresh tyres after doing a second run in the final session.
"I reckon that if I tried to repeat it 20 times, I could not do better," said the Spaniard. "When you do a lap like that it's hard to put into words what one feels. Always being on the limit in every corner is a really special feeling for a driver."
Michael Schumacher, the seven-times world champion who won six times in Barcelona with Benetton and Ferrari before making his comeback with Mercedes, did not set a timed lap in the last part after a KERS failure and will start 10th.
The German will be alone among the top 10 in starting the race on the harder tyres, which are much slower but more durable, in a different strategic choice that could pay dividends.
Schumacher was one place behind Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado, making his first appearance in the top 10 with Williams.
Further back, Team Lotus celebrated Heikki Kovalainen's 15th place on the grid, their best qualifying performance in dry conditions.
Renault's Nick Heidfeld did not take part in qualifying after his car caught fire in final practice and could not be rebuilt in time.
Fears that the Hispania and Virgin cars would not make the qualifying standard, based on times in practice, proved unfounded after the Red Bulls used the slower hard tyres in the opening session.