Red Bull's Max Verstappen has set himself up as favourite for the first race of the Formula One season after seizing a perfect pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Dutch star put in a stunning final flying lap as he denied champions Mercedes the top slot in the season-opener for the first time in the V6 turbo hybrid era that started in 2014.
Hamilton's Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, winner of the last two season-opening races held in Australia and Austria, will start third.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc qualified fourth, but on softer tyres than those ahead on mediums, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly fifth.
McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo will line up sixth for the Australian's first race with the team since he moved from Renault, one spot ahead of his teammate Lando Norris.
"I don't want to do somersaults or backflips just yet, but it's certainly a nice start for the campaign and I think we'll do alright tomorrow," Ricciardo said.
Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari race debut will start from eighth while two-times world champion Fernando Alonso, 39, will start his first F1 race since 2018 in ninth place with Renault-owned Alpine.
However, all will be chasing Verstappen, who will be buoyed by the fourth pole of his career and second in a row after the 2020 season-ender in Abu Dhabi, which he went on to win.
It continued an impeccable start to the year, with the Red Bull driver quickest in pre-season testing and all three practice sessions in Bahrain.
"So far the car has been working really well and it's just been really enjoyable to drive," Verstappen said.
"It all worked out perfectly in qualifying."
Sunday's floodlit race at Sakhir, hosting the opener instead of Australia which has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be the first time Verstappen has lined up on pole with Hamilton alongside.
"The fight is on," commented Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
The big losers in qualifying were four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, now at Aston Martin who qualified 18th and Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez who managed only 11th on the grid.
Vettel had to slow for yellow flags waved after Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin spun and was summoned to stewards on Sunday.
"We would have hoped for a better start but it is what it is," Vettel said.
"For sure I'm upset and angry but it wasn't our fault."
At the back, Michael Schumacher's son Mick will start 19th for Haas, one spot ahead of team mate Mazepin.