|Alonso is looking for his third Formula One world title win [AFP]
Fernando Alonso improved his chances of claiming a third Formula One world title by storming to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.
The Spaniard recorded the best lap of the weekend around the floodlit Marina Bay circuit, clocking one minute 45.390 seconds in the third qualifying session to edge out Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
World championship leader Mark Webber will start Sunday's race behind all four of his title rivals after qualifying in fifth position on a circuit where he has yet to finish a race.
Alonso has scored more points than any other driver in the last four races, including a win in Monza two weeks ago, and the Spaniard appears to have hit form at the right time and will be confident of eating into his 21-point deficit in the standings.
Three points further back and with five races remaining, Vettel desperately needs a win to haul himself back into the mix.
The German dominated practice on Friday and Saturday but was unable to turn his supremacy into a pole position.
Singapore's narrow street layout makes overtaking virtually impossible and although Alonso tasted victory in the inaugural race in 2008, he will be concerned that his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa suffered a mechanical failure in qualifying.
The Brazilian stopped on the track in the first qualifying session with what his team described as an "electronic management of the gearbox problem" and was unable to record a timed lap.
With Formula One's five title challengers occupying the first five places on the grid, McLaren's Button expects a mad dash for the first corner in Sunday's race.
Button is 22 points behind championship leader Mark Webber and desperately needs to make up ground on the Red Bull driver with only four races to go after Singapore.
Qualifying fourth on Saturday, a place ahead of Australian Webber, brought a smile to Button's face but he knows he has his work cut out with championship rivals Alonso, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton ahead of him on the grid.
"The first corner is going to be pretty mad I think," Button told reporters after qualifying. "We all want to make up places, especially Mark, leading the championship, I'm sure he'll want to make up a couple of places at the start."
Button lines up on the second row beside team mate Hamilton while Ferrari's Alonso will start from pole position, with Red Bull's Vettel second on the grid.
"The positive is I have Mark behind me, who's leading the championship," said Button.
"The negative is I have Alonso and Lewis in front of me, who are also in front of me in the championship.
"It's only one race out of five, so you've got to keep your cool and pick up as many points as you can."