Lewis Hamilton grabbed his fourth straight pole position and 42nd of his career with a storming performance.
Hamilton was quickest in all three qualifying sessions, with no one holding a candle to the reigning champion under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit.
With a stunning lap of 1min 32.571secs in his Mercedes, Hamilton finished four tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Rosberg a further 0.147secs adrift.
His performance makes 15 consecutive poles for Mercedes – nine behind the record of 24 set by Williams.
It was also Hamilton’s first pole in Bahrain – and on this form the win will follow as the 30-year-old was sensational when it mattered.
Kimi Raikkonen, who has struggled in qualifying this season, will line up fourth, while Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will occupy the third row in fifth and sixth.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo lines up seventh and Nico Hulkenberg eighth, the German impressively claiming Force India’s first top ten grid slot of the season, given their struggles with a car that will not be updated until June.
Carlos Sainz Jr starts ninth in his Toro Rosso, with Romain Grosjean 10th for Lotus.
Force India’s Sergio Perez will line up 11th, followed by Sauber duo Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and 17-year-old Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso.
For McLaren, given the woes they have endured this season with the arrival of Honda as power-unit supplier, it was the first time this year they have managed to get a car into Q2.
While that was the positive for the team, the negative came when Jenson Button retired his car minutes into the session.
After a wretched Friday of practice in which Button stopped on track in both sessions, the 35-year-old suffered a hat-trick of failures.
On his out lap in Q1 and after just three corners, Button ground to a halt again, pulling off track to the frustration of watching team boss Ron Dennis.
Button will line up 20th and last – his lowest grid slot since the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
Button said: “It was a power cut. Don’t know where it came from. It’s a shame because we thought the car was doing pretty well.”
Ahead of Button are Manor duo Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi in 18th and 19th.
Surprisingly, Daniil Kvyat also exited and starts 17th – the first time a Red Bull has dropped out of Q1 for almost three years.
An engine issue put Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado in 16th.