Nico Rosberg will start on pole for the first time in his career at Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix as Mercedes secured a front-row lockout.
McLaren's British star Lewis Hamilton actually qualified with the second fastest time on Saturday, but he will start down in seventh after being handed a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox earlier in the day.
That promotes Michael Schumacher to second on the grid, meaning Mercedes will start first and second in a Formula One grand prix for the first time since 1955 when Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss were in their cars.
Rosberg's pole was his first at the 111th time of asking and the 26-year-old did it with ease and a set of tyres to spare at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Rosberg blitzed the field on his first quick lap in the top 10 shoot-out and did not bother heading out again, finishing half a second up on Hamilton.
For Mercedes it is also their first pole since they returned to F1 at the start of 2010 and after a 55-year absence from the sport.
Given the build up had been completely overshadowed by the talk surrounding the prospects of next weekend's race in Bahrain, it was a relief to watch some meaningful action in Shanghai.
At least Rosberg and Mercedes have provided a different story, and behind them now on the grid - given Hamilton's penalty - will be Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi with his highest slot of third.
Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth and Jenson Button in his McLaren fifth, followed by the Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Behind Hamilton will be the second Sauber of Sergio Perez, the championship leader in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
The second session proved to be a disaster for reigning champion Sebastian Vettel who could only qualify 11th in his Red Bull, failing to make Q3 for the first time in 42 races.
It was the German's worst qualifying performance since Brazil 2009 when he was 15th, and that in inclement weather.
In stark contrast, and what will prove most galling for Vettel, is that Webber finished quickest at the end of Q2.
Behind Vettel will be Ferrari's Felipe Massa and the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, although both are currently under investigation for impeding incidents with Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen and Pedro de la Rosa at HRT.
Paul di Resta managed to finish ahead of Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, the duo starting 15th and 16th, with Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso 17th.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne led the departees following the initial 20-minute qualifying session, finishing 0.8secs behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
To underline such a startling chasm between two identical cars, that same period of time covered the 17 drivers above him in Q1.
The battle at Caterham saw Kovalainen edge out Vitaly Petrov for 19th on the grid, but with the Finn three quarters of a second behind Vergne.
Timo Glock starts 21st after finishing comfortably quicker than Marussia team-mate Charles Pic, while at HRT, Narain Karthikeyan starts 24th and last behind team-mate De la Rosa.
what do you think?
Hamilton will get it all together one day, but when that will be I simply have no idea. McLaren still not getting it quite right, Button only fifth !
come on mark you can do better, we're behind you