Sebastian Vettel saved his best for last on Saturday to produce a perfectly-timed fastest lap in treacherous wet conditions and take pole position for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
The four-time world champion steered his Red Bull through streams of running water amid plumes of spray for his ninth pole of the season, the 45th of his career and his team's eighth pole in succession
Vettel clocked a best lap of one minute and 26.479 seconds to finish seven-tenths of a second clear of nearest rival Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
He was more than a second clear of third-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and his own team-mate, retirement bound Australian Mark Webber.
Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, was fifth in the second Mercedes ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Daniel Ricciardo and his Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Local hero Felipe Massa, who leaves Ferrari after this weekend's contest, was ninth and Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber 10th on an afternoon of heavy rain, lengthy delays and only one major accident that saw Mexican Sergio Perez slide his McLaren into the barriers.
The session began in cold and wet conditions, but without the heavy rain of earlier in the day during the opening minutes as the leading drivers led the way on intermediate wet tyres.
Hamilton, immediately, set a fast time in 1:25.342 which was enough to survive through Q1 as high plumes of spray signalled more rain and left the rest in forlorn pursuit.
In the end Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams was eliminated as the fastest of the bottom six.
Out with him went Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber, Charles Pic and his Caterham team-mate Giedo Van Der Garde, Jules Bianchi and his Marussia team-mate Max Chilton.
The unpredictable rain, heavier in some corners than others, continued through Q2 as Rosberg, Vettel and then Grosjean set the pace.
By the end, Grosjean was on top and both McLarens were eliminated, outgoing Mexican Sergio Perez departing unhurt in a heavy collision with the barriers after losing control at Turn Five. He was 15th.
Out with him went his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, 14th, along with Heikki Kovalainen in the second Lotus, who was 11th ahead of Paul Di Resta of Force India and Valtteri Bottas of Williams.
Perez and Button were 14th and 15th ahead of Adrian Sutil in the second Force India at the end as the rain intensified and Q3 was postponed, initially, for 10 minutes.
Perez said: "I am ok - I think the crash looked bigger than it was. The hit was not that big.... I tried and I risked everything and it ended badly."
For McLaren, facing the dismal prospect of completing their first season since 1966 without finishing in the top four, this was another setback as the two Toro Rosso men swept through to the top ten shootout.
"It's treacherous around here in the wet," said Di Resta. "Good luck to the guys in Q3!"
"If it's wet like this, it's a horrible race because you can't see anything," said Button, as another 10 minutes delay was announced.
Finally, after a 47 minutes' delay, Webber and Vettel led the way, plumes of spray marking their progress on full wet tyres before Grosjean switched to intermediates for the decisive five minute finale.