Lewis Hamilton slotted his McLaren on the starting grid's first spot by a commanding margin on Saturday in Barcelona, but the first man behind him is an equally impressive Pastor Maldonado.
After the first Q3 runs, only Fernando Alonso, in the revised Ferrari F2012 and Maldonado in the Williams-Renault had been able to better Hamilton’s benchmark. The Brit therefore elected to go out again – he was the only one to do so – and it paid off.
The lap he produced was at least half a second quicker than anyone else’s. But worryingly, the 2008 champion was told by his engineer to park his car on the way back to the pits.
His boss, Martin Whitmarsh, admitted his team does not understand the nature of the problem. "It's a little bit of a worry," he told British television Sky. However, engine and transmission seem unaffected.
It's therefore unlikely Hamilton will lose the privilege of McLaren's 150th pole to any kind of grid penalty.
Behind the leading trio, Romain Grosjean (fourth) led his Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen (fifth).
Then come the Sergio Perez (Sauber) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) – the last drivers to set a time in Q3.
Both Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and his countryman Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) first went out but elected not to set a lap time. Come Sunday, they will be able to decide which tire compound to start the race on.
Kamui Kobayashi too, did not set a time, but was forced to – his car coming to a halt at the end of Q2.
Big guns Jenson Button (McLaren) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) took what was left for them, respectively 11th and 12th place, not being able to qualify in the top 10.
Even though their teammates qualified in the top three, Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Bruno Senna (Williams-Renault) could no do better than ninth row.
Moreover, temperatures are high at the Circuit de Catalunya. The 40°C recorded by Pirelli is slightly higher than the figures recorded at the last grand prix, in Bahrain.
Starting grid – Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren MP4/27-Mercedes) - 1min21.707s - Q3
Pastor Maldonado (Williams FW34-Renault) - 1min22.285s - Q3
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F2012) - 1min22.302s - Q3
Romain Grosjean (Lotus E20-Renault) - 1min22.424s - Q3
Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus E20-Renault) - 1min22.487s - Q3
Sergio Perez (Sauber C31-Ferrari - 1min22.533s - Q3
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes MGP W03) - 1min23.005s - Q3
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB8-Renault) - no time - Q3
Michael Schumacher (Mercedes MGP W03) - no time - Q3
Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber C31-Ferrari) - no time - Q3
Jenson Button (McLaren MP4/27-Mercedes) - 1min22.944s - Q2
Mark Webber (Red Bull RB8-Renault) - 1min22.977s - Q2
Paul Di Resta (Force India VJM05-Mercedes) - 1min23.125s - Q2
Nico Hulkenberg (Force India VJM05-Mercedes) - 1min23.177s - Q2
Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso STR7-Ferrari) - 1min23.265s - Q2
Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso STR7-Ferrari) - 1min23.442s - Q2
Felipe Massa (Ferrari F2012) - 1min23.444s - Q2
Bruno Senna (Williams FW34-Renault) - 1min24.981s - Q1
Vitaly Petrov (Caterham CT01-Renault) - 1min25.277s - Q1
Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham CT01-Renault) - 1min25.507s - Q1
Charles Pic (Marussia MR01-Cosworth) - 1min26.582s - Q1
Timo Glock (Marussia MR01-Cosworth) - 1min27.032s - Q1
Pedro De La Rosa (HRT F112-Cosworth) - 1min27.555s - Q1
Narain Karthikeyan (HRT F112-Cosworth) - 1min31.122s - Q1