(CNN) -- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has claimed his third pole position of the season at Saturday's qualifying session for the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.
The double world champion clocked a time of one minute 38.086 seconds, finishing comfortably ahead of current championship leader Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren.
Williams Renault driver Pastor Maldonado will start Sunday's race in third.
Vettel, who has taken the checkered flag at the last two European Grand Prix, was off the pace on the street circuit in Friday's practice session and during the early stages of qualifying.
But the German seized the initiative when it mattered, nailing a rapid lap as the clock ticked down in Q3.
"We had one shot there at the end which turned out to be a very good lap. Q1 and Q2 were not to our liking," the 24-year-old said.
"We were struggling to find the balance we did have in practice. It was a good recovery. We had to put a second set of options in Q2. It was the right call because I don't think my first lap was good enough," Vettel added.
But there was disappointment for his teammate, Mark Webber, who will start Sunday's race down in a lowly 19th after failing to make it out of Q1.
Ferrari also had a qualifying session to forget with both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa unable to make it out of Q2.
Alonso, winner at the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this season, will start Sunday's race in 11th while Massa is two places further back in 13th. Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes GP will start in 12th.
Lotus's Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth and fifth respectively, while McLaren's Jenson Button qualified in eighth place.