Germany's Nico Rosberg took a controversial pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday after an incident that denied unhappy Mercedes team mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton the chance to beat him.
Formula One stewards opened an immediate investigation after Rosberg, who had earlier set the pace, locked-up a front tyre on the way down to Mirabeau and went down the escape road in the dying seconds to avoid hitting the tyre wall.
The mistake brought out the yellow warning flags at a crucial moment in qualifying.
Hamilton, winner of the last four races, was faster through the first sector but had to settle for second place on the starting grid after aborting his final lap.
"I thought it was over," a smiling Rosberg, last year's winner and Hamilton's closest title rival, told reporters. "I'm happy it worked out. Pole at home is fantastic - it couldn't be better.
"Of course I'm sorry for what happened to Lewis. I didn't know where exactly he was. But once I was reversing I didn't see who was coming up. Of course it's not great, but that's the way it is," he added.
Hamilton said, a forced smile on his face, that it was 'ironic' for his rival to secure pole in such a fashion and that he had been up a couple of tenths of a second.
"I was on target, yep," he said of his aborted lap.
The incident, and stewards' actions, revived memories of Michael Schumacher's infamous 2006 pole lap when the seven-times world champion blatantly blocked the Rascasse corner and prevented Renault's Fernando Alonso from going faster.
After hours of deliberation, the German was sent to the back of the grid for an 'incorrect action'.
Rosberg said he knew he had a 'banker' lap from earlier in the session and had just pushed a little too hard.
"I just locked up the outside front I think it was, or the inside, and that put me off line. I was still trying to make it but then in the last moment I had to turn out... it was close but I managed to go into the escape road."
Hamilton, who said only days ago that he was hungrier than his team mate for the title, has a three point lead over Rosberg after five races, all won by Mercedes who have also started all from pole.
With Mercedes so dominant, the driver pairing is the talk of Formula One with all eyes watching for signs of their intense rivalry shifting up a gear into open feuding.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo will start in third place for Red Bull with quadruple world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel alongside on the second row.
"I think all three of us don't seem to be too pleased with ourselves," observed Ricciardo, sitting alongside Hamilton and Rosberg at a post-qualifying news conference.
"I think we could have been much closer, so a little bit disappointed."
The Ferrari pairing of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen filled the third row.
The stewards were given plenty of work with the Rosberg investigation only one of four needing to be resolved after the qualifying session.
Felipe Massa was furious when Caterham's Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson rammed the Brazilian's Williams at Mirabeau in an incident that meant he could not take part in the second phase.
"I gave him the space and he went over my car. I don't know what more there is to say. The race tomorrow will be very tough. I feel disappointed," said Massa.
Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, who qualified an impressive ninth for Toro Rosso despite skidding at the tunnel exit and smashing his front wing in the first phase of qualifying, was also summoned along with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
Mexicans Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, with Force India and Sauber respectively, were involved in another incident.
Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen qualified eighth on his Monaco F1 debut but 2009 world champion team mate Jenson Button, a former winner in the principality, was only 12th for McLaren.
Image: Nico Rosberg
Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters