Sebastian Vettel stands just 56 laps away from becoming the youngest triple world champion in Formula One history.
Vettel continued his total domination of the United States Grand Prix weekend, following his clean sweep of practice by setting the fastest times in all three qualifying sessions. It means the 25-year-old will start his 100th grand prix from his sixth pole position this year, and 36th of a career which threatens to scale new heights on Sunday.
Leading title rival Fernando Alonso by 10 points going into the race at the £250million Circuit of the Americas on the outskirts of Texan capital Austin, the duo are separated by seven places on the grid.
Alonso could only qualify ninth in his Ferrari, but will move up a position to eighth as Lotus's Romain Grosjean will drop five places from fourth after being penalised for a gearbox change.
Alonso has to finish within 15 points of Vettel to ensure the title fight goes down to the wire in Brazil next weekend, but clearly faces an uphill battle to achieve that on the evidence so far.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning performance to finish just a tenth of a second adrift of Vettel. However, he will start on the dirty side of the grid which is a distinct disadvantage on this track and is likely to come under pressure from third-on-the-grid Mark Webber in his Red Bull.
With Grosjean penalised, Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen moves up to fourth, followed by Mercedes' Michael Schumacher, the Ferrari of Felipe Massa and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg. On the fifth row of the grid, Grosjean will be joined by Williams' Pastor Maldonado just behind him in 10th.
McLaren's current fallibility struck again in Q2, with Jenson Button on the receiving end on this occasion as he complained of a loss of power with three minutes remaining of the 15. At that stage he was eighth, and it was inevitable he would drop out of the top 10, the Briton eventually falling to 12th behind Williams' Bruno Senna.
Vettel declared himself "very pleased with the result", and rightly so given Alonso's position, although he claimed he is unconcerned as to the Spaniard's woes.
"There's not much to feel," said Vettel, when asked for his thoughts. "We just look after ourselves, so we are very happy. We had no issues today, although we lost a little bit of time yesterday (with a water leak), but these things can happen. The best strategy is to keep your head down, which was the target in qualifying."