Sebastian Vettel
I'm the fastest: Sebastian Vettel Reuters

Red Bull set a Formula One record of 16 pole positions in a season when double world champion Sebastian Vettel lapped fastest in qualifying for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The 24-year-old German's 13th pole in the 17th of 19 races also kept him on course to break Briton Nigel Mansell's 1992 record of 14 poles in a single year.

Vettel will be joined on the front row by Australian team mate Mark Webber because McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who was second fastest in the final session, has a three-place penalty for ignoring warning flags in Friday practice.

A new circuit, new venue and tricky for all of us... we've seen all weekend the dust on the track, said Vettel, who wrapped up his second successive title in Japan earlier this month, with four races to spare.

We ended up with one racing line clear of dirt and just a little bit out makes you lose a lot of time, so it was quite tricky. Ideally we want to finish one-two but it's going to be an interesting race, added the German after securing a 28th career pole that lifted him level with the late Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio in the all-time lists.

Webber has yet to win this season and Red Bull has said their main aim, now that both titles have been defended, is to ensure the Australian finishes as overall-runner-up. That has triggered speculation Vettel could gift his team mate a win on Sunday but Webber was having none of that.

There's been a lot of talk from the team but no talk from me, he said, I don't want any positions off Sebastian. Nothing will change. I think wins are more important for me, added Webber, when asked whether finishing second overall mattered to him.

Hamilton Optimistic

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Jenson Button will share the second row. Hamilton will start fifth, once again alongside the second Ferrari driver, Brazilian Felipe Massa with whom he has clashed repeatedly this season. The Ferrari driver hit a kerb heavily, smashed his front right suspension and crashed across the gravel and into the wall at the end of the session.

Hamilton was pleased to have split the Red Bulls in the session, even if he will not be the meat in the sandwich when the grid forms on Sunday.

It's been a good day for me, said the 2008 champion, I am quite surprised that we are able to split the Red Bulls and it's great to be on the front row in terms of how we qualified. I paid the price and tomorrow we still have good race pace and it's a long race so overtaking should be a lot easier. I am still optimistic regardless of where I start.

The Briton was not the only driver to go into qualifying carrying a grid penalty; Renault's Russian driver Vitaly Petrov was handed a five-place penalty for causing a collision at the last race in South Korea. In addition, Sauber's Mexican driver Sergio Perez was given a three-place drop for the same offence as Hamilton while HRT's Australian racer Daniel Ricciardo faces a largely meaningless five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Virgin Racing's Timo Glock may also pick up a gearbox penalty after being sidelined by a problem in the first part of the qualifying session that will see him start last of the 24 drivers.