Vettel claimed the pole position over teammate Lewis Hamilton by 2/10ths of a second.
Vettel, the defending Formula One world champion and current points leader, posted a time of 1 minute, 37.202 seconds during his first run in the final qualifying segment.
"I had a very, very good lap in Q3, my first attempt," Vettel said. "I knew that it would be tricky to beat that time -- for myself."
Vettel will be trying for his fourth consecutive grand prix victory Sunday. He started on the pole in two of the three races he won.
Romain Grosjean of Lotus claimed the No. 3 starting position for Sunday.
Vettel's teammate Mark Webber had third nailed down but was shoved down to 13th due to a penalty assessed at the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago.