Sebastian Vettel on pole in Brazil

SAO PAULO -- Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was fastest on a wet Interlagos track to take the pole position on Saturday for Formula One's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

Vettel, who has already clinched his fourth straight F1 title, had a lap of 1 minute, 26.479 seconds, more than half a second ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.

"I was surprised by the margin," Vettel said. "It's great in these conditions to get it all right after very little practice. (We) still got the car where we wanted in the end, so very happy."

The result leaves the German driver in good position to try to equal Michael Schumacher's 13 victories in a year and match the record of nine consecutive wins by Alberto Ascari in the 1952 and `53 seasons.

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished third in 1:27.539. Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber- who is leaving Formula One after Sunday's race- will start fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

Vettel earned his ninth pole of the year and 45th all-time.

Heavy rain in Sao Paulo forced racing's governing body FIA to delay the final round of qualifying by 40 minutes after conditions were deemed unsafe because of the "volume of water on the track."

It rained during all three practice sessions in Sao Paulo, but never as hard as it did in qualifying. Nearly all drivers went out immediately after the track opened to try to set a time before weather conditions deteriorated.

Rosberg, who had led both practice sessions on Friday, said there was nothing he could have done to catch his countryman.

"Surprised about the gap to Sebastian, it was very big," Rosberg said. "Definitely it would have been difficult even if we did everything perfect."

Just before the end of the second round of qualifying, McLaren's Sergio Perez crashed hard into a retaining wall after losing the back end of his car over a curb and spinning across the track. The Mexican driver was not injured.

McLaren drivers, with a last chance for a podium finish, didn't make it past the second round -- Jenson Button was 15th and Perez was 14th.

Home-crowd favorite Felipe Massa will start ninth in his final race with Ferrari before joining Williams.

Two-time champion Alonso said he made a mistake that cost him a chance to start in the front row.

"Being in the first three is good, but I'm not totally happy with my lap," the Spaniard said. "Lost a lot of time. Not obviously to beat Seb, he was too far in front of us, but I think for second place it was not difficult."

Webber, moving to sports cars after F1, was fastest in the final practice on Saturday.

Still at stake at the Brazilian GP is second place in the constructors' championship. With 43 points up for grabs at Interlagos, Mercedes holds a 15-point lead over Ferrari and a 33-point advantage over Lotus. Red Bull easily clinched the title in advance.

It will be the last race before F1 adopts new engine rules that are expected to revamp the series next year. Teams will have to switch from the current 2.4-litre V8 engines to a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit, a move that will demand significant alterations in the design of cars.

Pastor Maldonado at Williams, who may replace Raikkonen at Lotus, didn't make it past the first round of qualifying and will start 17th.