Manama:Robert Kubica, the first Polish driver in Formula One, secured the first pole position of his career on Saturday when he planted his BMW at the front of the grid for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 23-year-old from Krakow, taking part in only his 27th Grand Prix, outpaced nearest rivals Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari and old friend and current Drivers Championship leading Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.
Kubica recorded a fastest lap of one minute and 33.096 seconds in the final stages of the third part-section of the Saturday session to give his team their first prime starting place.
"After yesterday, I knew I had to develop things a bit and I managed to do that a lot," said a deadpan Kubica afterwards.
"It was quite a good lap and the first time pole position for me."
He explained that he had a very difficult car despite his fast lap and achievement and added that this was partly due to a pre-season fitness and weight-loss campaign which saw him lose six kilos.
"I am fitter, I lost it," he said.
"But it is difficult to say if it is just the lighter driver. I think if I am lighter, I go quicker. So, I decided with the engineer to reduce weight from the car, and from myself, and this is the result!
"This is it - and maximum effort from me. It was very hard, but I managed it."
Asked about the lap, he said: "I saw the lap pretty well and at the corner I locked the front tyres and flat-spotted them, that meant I had big vibrations for the last three corners, the right handers.
"It was difficult and I concentrated to make no mistake and the car was good and pulling on braking one side, but it was enough for pole and that's it."
Massa was second-fastest, endorsing his improved challenge this weekend after two pointless and error-strewn outings in Australian and Malaysia, and Hamilton third.
Hamilton, 23, crashed heavily in his McLaren on Friday afternoon in practice and had to use the team's spare chassis, built up overnight at the circuit.
He put in a huge effort and set the fastest time of the part-session with seconds remaining, but it was not enough.
Massa said: "I lost it all definitely on the last run, I did incredible laps all weekend, the car was perfect and then in Q3 when I was behind other cars.
"I was behind Nico (Rosberg) and then Fernando (Alonso), I got stuck. Fernando made a mistake and let me by, but it was too late. It was not a perfect lap."
Hamilton said: "Ferrari do seem to have outstanding pace at the moment, but I was happy with the balance of the car in qualifying and I felt I could challenge for the front row.
"Well, we are third and I am pretty happy with that. It was a decent lap and I am sure I had time to gain, and if I had done the perfect lap I could have had pole."
He added: "I will go back and study it and look forward to the race and with our good strategy I think it will be very interesting tomorrow."
Hamilton said that Friday's accident made no difference to his approach in qualifying.
"For me, it makes no difference and I just get in the car and go faster and today I was quicker in that corner than yesterday.
"I think it is important to bounce back and knock down that barrier - and I have never had any problems like that in my career."
Kubica, who had a miraculous escape from a dreadful crash in the Canadian Grand Prix last year, followed up his career-best second place in Malaysia two weeks ago with the maiden pole of his brief career in a thrilling climax to the session.
Kubica, whose previous best qualifying was second in Australia last month, took pole by less than one-tenth of a second from Massa to confirm BMW's emergence as a major contender alongside Ferrari and McLaren.
Defending world champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth in the other Ferrari.
Massa had dominated proceedings on the 5.412 kms desert track in Sakhir where he roared to victory from pole last year.
But as the seconds ticked by to the end of the session first Hamilton displaced him from top spot before the British pilot, who leads the championship by three points, lost out to Kubica.
Massa was left as the last man on the track, but for the first time since practice began had to settle for second best as he just failed to regain his position at the top of the time-sheets.
Japan's Takuma Sato crashed his Super Aguri in the first qualifying session after hitting the kerb at the final corner too hard.
The session was immediately red-flagged and halted for several minutes while marshals cleared the stricken car.
There was disappointment for Force India who had targeted progressing to the second qualifying session, but Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella and Germany's Adrian Sutil finished 18th and 20th respectively.
Red Bull's British driver David Coulthard was also a surprise casualty of the opening session as he finished 17th fastest.
There was better news for Coulthard's fellow Briton Jenson Button who made it into the top 10 shoot-out for the first time this year for Honda. He qualified a season's best 10th.