Michael Schumacher and Ferrari bounced back to form by taking pole position at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
1 M Schumacher 1:31.431
2 F Massa 1:31.478
3 J Button 1:31.549
4 F Alonso 1:31.702
5 JP Montoya 1:32.164
6 R Barrichello 1:32.579
Schumacher, who had a poor 2005 season, set a time of one minute 31.431 seconds for his 65th career pole, equalling Ayrton Senna's all-time record.
He beat his team-mate Felipe Massa by 0.047secs into second place.
Jenson Button was third fastest for Honda, ahead of world champion Fernando Alonso's Renault and the McLaren-Mercedes of Juan Pablo Montoya.
Montoya's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen will start last after an early spin.
Raikkonen was the most high-profile victim of the new-style qualifying, which eliminates six cars at the end of each of two 15-minute sessions before the fastest 10 cars shoot out for pole.
The Finn suffered what appeared to be a rear suspension failure as he attempted to set his first lap time.
Button is a competitive third in the Honda in Bahrain
His 2005 title rival Alonso set the fastest time in the first two parts of qualifying before dropping down in the final one.
But the final shoot-out is run with race levels of fuel, so the times do not necessarily reflect which is the fastest car.
Teams may decide that running more fuel in qualifying - and therefore at the start of the race - will give them a better strategy.
Schumacher's pole was the 65th of his career - equalling the all-time record set by the late Ayrton Senna.
"It's been a long time," said Schumacher. "I had to wait to get back up here and it was a lot of hard work in the meantime. It is an amazing result.
"All winter we seemed to have a good package, but you wait for the final confirmation and we have the confirmation of all the hard work that has been done to put us back up here.
"It is a great feeling and it was too long."
He said he was "proud" to equal Senna's mark, until Saturday the last record in F1 that Schumacher did not hold.
Massa said he would have beaten his team-mate to pole had he not been held up by Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella on a faster lap.
Alonso, pre-season favourite to win the championship, described his fourth place as "disappointing".
"I made a mistake on my first timed lap at the end of the session, and that meant I had to do another one," the Spainard said.
"Obviously, the tyres weren't in such a good condition by then, which meant I ended up only P4. Still, the second row is not too bad, we know the car is quick, so let's see what happens."
Qualifying times and grid positions at Bahrain Grand Prix:
1. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari one minute 31.431 seconds
2. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:31.478
3. Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:31.549
4. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:31.702
5. Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.164
6. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1:32.579
7. Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 1:33.006
8. Christian Klien (Aut) RedBull-Ferrari 1:33.112
9. Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:33.496
10. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:33.926
11. Jacques Villeneuve (Can) BMW Sauber 1:32.456*
12. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:32.690*
13. David Coulthard (GB) RedBull - Ferrari 1:32.850*
14. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:33.066*
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:33.416*
16. Scott Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:34.606*
17. Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:34.702**
18. Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland-Toyota 1:35.724**
19. Tiago Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota 1:35.900**
20. Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:37.411**
21. Yuji Ide (Jpn) Super Aguri - Honda 1:40.270**
22. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes no time**
* = time set in second 15-minute elimination session
** = time set in first 15-minute elimination session