Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Eifel Grand Prix in a fight with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bottas grabbed top spot with his final lap to take pole by 0.256 seconds after Verstappen set the pace on the first runs in final qualifying.
It was the closest Mercedes have come to being beaten in qualifying this year but Verstappen slipped back to third.
Charles Leclerc took fourth for Ferrari to equal their best 2020 grid position.
Bottas’ lap brought to an end a run of five consecutive pole positions for Hamilton.
It was the Finn’s third pole of the year, his previous ones coming at the opening race in Austria and the second Silverstone race, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Verstappen was quickest on the first runs in final qualifying by 0.068secs, with Hamilton a further 0.013secs adrift.
Hamilton went fastest with his final lap but Bottas leapfrogged him to take pole, two weeks after he won the Russian Grand Prix.
“It’s such a nice feeling when you get it on the last lap and that was pretty much spot on,” Bottas said.
Hamilton said: “He did a great job, so congrats to him. There’s a lot to play for tomorrow.”
Verstappen said: “In Q3 when it really mattered I started understeering too much which cost me a bit of lap time. We are getting closer towards Mercedes, which is positive. A little bit disappointed, I was expecting a little more but I can still be happy.”
The race weekend has been compacted into two days after Friday practice was cancelled because hill fog meant the medical helicopter could not take off.
Saturday’s final practice session and qualifying were held under sunny skies, but the weather was cold, as expected in Germany’s Eifel mountains in mid-October, at just 10C.
Leclerc’s performance was perhaps the standout of qualifying, the Ferrari 0.8secs from pole after the introduction of a series of aerodynamic upgrades.
It equalled the fourth place Leclerc managed at the British Grand Prix as the team’s best of the year.
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel was 11th, failing to make it out of the second knockout session, in which he was 0.5secs slower than Leclerc.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon took fifth, ahead of the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz sandwiching the Racing Point of Sergio Perez at the bottom of the top 10.
Perez’s team-mate Lance Stroll withdrew from the weekend with illness and was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, the German who stood in for Perez when the Mexican contracted coronavirus for the two Silverstone races.
Hulkenberg, who did not receive a call from the team to come to the track until 11:00 CET and when he was in Cologne, was thrown in at the deep end in qualifying and finished last.