(CNN) -- Two time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed pole in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka for the fourth straight year Saturday ahead of Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
The German clocked the fastest time of one minute 30.839 seconds, which was 0.251 seconds faster than Webber.
McLaren's Jenson Button was third quickest, but will start from eighth after having a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
It has promoted home hope Kamui Kobayashi to third as the home driver produced a superb last qualifying lap in his Sauber to delight the crowd.
France's Romain Grosjean for Lotus will go from fourth with the second Sauber of Mexican Sergio Perez in fifth.
Button's relegation has moved Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso up to sixth as he bids to protect his 29-point title lead over Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton, who announced his move to Mercedes this week, was a disappointing ninth fastest in the second McLaren in a further blow to his receding championship challenge.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who is being replaced at Mercedes by Hamilton and will retire for the second time at the end of the season, was unable to make the top-10 shootout.
Schumacher, who crashed in practice Friday, was only 13th fastest and will start from 23rd after a 10-place grid penalty for an incident in the previous round in Sinqapore.
But Vettel, who stayed clear of a late qualifying crash by Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, which held up several drivers, including Alonso and Hamilton, was in imperious form as he stepped up his title bid.
"We had almost the perfect qualifying," he told the post-qualifying press conference.
"The car felt fantastic and I couldn't have asked for any more."
Vettel won in Singapore after race leader Hamilton retired and with six round remaining has become a real threat to Alonso.