(CNN) -- Sebastian Vettel doesn't like losing -- and Formula One's youngest ever triple world champion showed he means business after wrapping up pole position at Sepang Saturday.
The Red Bull driver, who started at the front of the grid at Melbourne last weekend, was beaten into third after Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso took the top two spots.
Vettel's frustration at failing to make the most of his advantage was palpable, but ahead of Sunday's second race of the season in Malaysia, he demonstrated once again why he's the man to beat.
With the rain causing chaos, the German recorded recorded a fastest time of one minute 49.674 seconds to pip Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who will start second and third on the grid.
"I think if you start in the front you always want to finish there," Vettel told the post-qualifying press conference.
"We confirmed more or less what we saw in Melbourne. I was very happy with the balance of the car once again.
"I think also considering where we were last year here, a big step forward. But these days racing is a little bit different.
"Hopefully we'll find the right amount of percentage less than 100% to start he race tomorrow.
"Managing the tires will be crucial and then we go from there. We know the pace is there so hopefully we get to the checkered flag in the same position."
While Vettel was left content with his performance, last weekend's race winner Raikkonen suffered a disappointing day after being handed a three-place penalty.
The Finn had qualified in seventh before stewards adjudged him to have impended the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
"It's a shame to lose the three places but it is what it is," he told Lotus' official website.
"You never know what will happen in the race -- especially here -- so we'll do our best and let's hope we have the speed to get on the podium."
Raikkonen's absence from the top end of the grid is a bonus for Ferrari, with Massa in particular looking to take advantage after out-qualifying Alonso for the fourth race in succession.
"I think whenever you feel comfortable you can do a good lap and you can use the car to the maximum, it's possible," he told reporters.
"It was really clear that I was not comfortable last year and the year before, so many things around the car, bad luck, around myself as well, so there were so many things that were not working in the proper direction.
"But now they are and I know how quick I can be, I've showed that many times in the past.
"If everything works well, we can be competitive; it's pretty sure about that. I believe in myself and I think it can be really important for the team, for Fernando as well, for everybody.
"We need a stronger team, a strong position and fighting for the best position in every race so I'm happy, that's a good direction."
Two-time world champion Alonso won at Sepang last season and will be hoping for a repeat performance this time around -- despite being outshone by teammate Massa .
"I think I've been racing 27 years now in motor racing - I'm getting old - so it's not the first time that we have very close competition," he told the press conference.
"It was very close the last three years as well, but I know that for you it was not that close in terms of results because I think Felipe had some bad luck, some incidents sometimes, some mechanical problems other times.
"But the last three years was much closer than I think that it looked in the points at the end.
"So this year it is again very close, no big difference, maybe a little bit closer and for sure the last two races we are behind on the grid but so far on Saturday there are no points so we need to keep working for Sunday.
"It's the best news for the team, because we need to have a competition between the two drivers in the team.
"We need to share information between the drivers in the team and now I think all the data that we have from free practice, from qualifying for everything is very useful to compare and to analyze to make ourselves better.
"So this is only good news for the team and we will push each other to our own limits and this is good news for the team.
After claiming a fifth place finish in last weekend's season-opener, Lewis Hamilton is aiming for better in his Mercedes.
The 2008 world champion will start fourth on the grid and is targeting a podium finish.
"The car was not too bad in the dry but the balance could have been a lot better, then it was pretty tricky conditions in the wet during Q3," he told the team's official website.
"We did our lap with older tires than the guys in front, which was a bit unfortunate, but our pace was good overall so I can't complain.
"It's the second race on the second row for me and there are lots of positives to take out of the weekend so far.
"Our long run pace looked pretty good compared to the other teams so I'm hoping for dry conditions tomorrow."