Despite being ahead on pace throughout the early stages of qualifying, it was pole position for Lewis Hamilton ahead of Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo saving his best effort for the dying moments on Q3 and stealing P3 from Max Verstappen.
Searching for an incident-free weekend, Hamilton has his best chance yet of chalking up his first victory for the season and get his championship challenge back on track.
Both Ferrari's looked unsteady with Kimi Raikkonen particularly struggling through the fast corners with understeer.
Daniil Kvyat failed to progress into Q3, failing his first test upon returning to the Red Bull Junior team with Carlos Sainz comfortably progressing into the top ten. Kvyat also upset that the team didn't listen to his suggestion to save tyres for the race, but understandably the car was better than was able to achieve at a race that is difficult to overtake.
In Q1 Felipe Massa was a surprise exclusion and the Brazilian was visibly frustrated with the result. "I just had traffic on my first lap, and we didn't have enough time to go out again," said Massa, after the team tried to save tyres for the race by doing one run.
Red Bull showed promising speed over both Toro Rosso and Ferrari which means the races here and in Monaco could see them pulling clear of their main challengers and chasing down the Mercedes drivers.