Valtteri Bottas stepped up to claim pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix, as team-mate Lewis Hamilton crashed out in Q1.
'It's such a good feeling to get everything together'
Valtteri single-handedly fought the two Ferraris for pole, but after topping Q1 the Finn trailed Sebastian Vettel going into the final run of the final shootout.
But while Vettel failed to improve on his final flier, Valtteri clocked a 1:08.322s to edge the Ferrari to the top spot by just 0.038s - securing his third career pole.
"It was so close in qualifying, as it always tends to be in Brazil," said Valtteri. "I knew going into the last run in Q3 that I had to improve if I wanted to be on pole. I could feel and see that I was improving corner after corner.
"It's such a good feeling to get everything together in the end. It was very unfortunate that Lewis wasn't there for Q2 and Q3. So it was up to me to deliver for the team, and I'm very happy that I could.
"I have the clear goal to still try and become second in the Drivers' Championship. Having a good target makes everyone in the team work harder, including myself.
"It's going to be important to have a good, clean race tomorrow, but it won't be easy, the Ferraris are very quick as well. Turn 1 and 2 are always tricky in Interlagos, but hopefully I will get a good getaway so there won't be any issues.
"It's only my third pole position, so I will very much like the view from the starting line tomorrow."
'I'm not really sure what happened'
Lewis went into qualifying as one of the favourites after topping both practice sessions on Friday, but the new four-time World Champion crashed heavily at Turn 6 on his opening lap in Q1.
The Brit, who was unhurt and given the all-clear without having to visit the circuit medical centre, will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid.
"I'm not really sure what happened, it all happened very quickly, but I take full responsibility," said Lewis. "Of course, today is not the result that I would hope for, but challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful.
"It is unfortunate - but it is what it is. I am just going to try to take the bubble of negativity that comes from that experience, learn from it, and move forward.
"Years ago, I came from quite far behind and had a great race, so I will try to have as much fun as possible tomorrow."
'Now it's all eyes on tomorrow's race'
After an incident involving the team last night, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says a super pole for Valtteri was a worthy reward.
"That was an unusual session - it started out pretty badly and finished pretty well," said Toto. "First of all, a brilliant job from Valtteri.
"It was a great lap from Sebastian in Q3, so Valtteri had to pull out all the stops to claim pole position. And he did. After a tough night for a number of our boys following yesterday evening's incident, this was the perfect reward for their professionalism and dedication.
"It was a tough session for Lewis and obviously very unusual to see him not set a time in qualifying. But rather than focus on the shunt, I was struck by the way he went straight to parc ferme to be the first to congratulate Valtteri on his pole position. That's a small example of our team spirit and the trust between two team-mates.
"Now it's all eyes on tomorrow's race. Lewis has a mountain to climb - but if anybody can, he can. And for Valtteri, there can only be one target. It will be an exciting, close race but we will be aiming to come out on top."
'Interlagos always serves up an exciting Grand Prix'
Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin hailed Valtteri's superb lap to take pole against the two Ferraris and expects he red cars to be close again on Sunday.
"As expected, we saw much cooler temperatures today and intermittent rain, which changed both the way the car was working and the tyre operating window compared to yesterday," said Andrew.
"We had made small set-up changes in anticipation of this, while remaining mindful that tomorrow is forecast to be much warmer, and enjoyed a solid practice session this morning when both drivers were reasonably happy with the car - but it was also clear that we would be in a very close fight with Ferrari.
"Qualifying got off to a bad start with Lewis' accident at Turn 6 and this left us with just one car to focus on. Valtteri rose admirably to the challenge and did a great job. He improved on every run and put in a fantastic final lap, in tricky conditions with some light rain hanging around, and deservedly added another pole position to his growing collection.
"Tomorrow, we are expecting Ferrari and Red Bull to be very close to us on race pace. Interlagos always serves up an exciting Grand Prix and we don't expect tomorrow to be any different."