SINGAPORE -- Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, besting his fading championship rivals Saturday despite gambling on skipping the last flying lap of qualifying.
Already boasting a big lead in the Formula One drivers' championship standings, Vettel sat out the last section of qualifying under the lights at Marina Bay in order to save a set of the super soft tires for the race.
The decision looked questionable as Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and Lotus' Romain Grosjean all began strongly on their final laps and threatened to tip Vettel out of top spot.
Vettel was chewing his fingernails watching on the monitors in the garage and pumped his fist when he saw his time had stood up, as Rosberg finished a tenth of a second behind him in second.
Grosjean, Webber and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton were third through fifth respectively, all within half a second of Vettel, who notched his fifth pole position of the season.
"I knew we had a cushion, that is why we decided not to run," Vettel said. "The thing you don't know is how much the track improves. It was very close and it's not the best feeling when you are standing there and watching.
"I'm very happy with the result, the car has been phenomenal all weekend."
Rosberg described second place as "a great result," but said the thin margin between his time and that of Vettel was a bit misleading.
"They (Red Bull) gambled a bit and I am sure they are a bit quicker than that last time, if Sebastian used another set of tires," Rosberg said.
Grosjean's third place matched his best qualifying performance of the season, made all the more impressive by the fact that his more accomplished teammate Kimi Raikkonen was a lowly 13th.
With Raikkonen moving on to Ferrari next season, Grosjean is auditioning for a team leader role, but is also aware he is not guaranteed a seat with Lotus next year.
"I don't really care (about beating Raikkonen)," Grosjean said. "My relationship with Kimi has always been not very 'speaky.' I am just focused on what I have to do and we will see."
Ferrari pair Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso qualified in sixth and seventh place respectively, with McLaren's Jenson Button eighth, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo ninth and Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez a career-best 10th, bettering his previous high of 14th.
Vettel, who is on track for a fourth straight world championship, is aiming for his third straight victory at Marina Bay, where pole sitters have a marked advantage on the tight and twisty race circuit.
"It's tricky to pass on this track but because it's such a long race, there are plenty of opportunities for all of us, and usually we get a safecty car this race," Vettel said.