Nico Rosberg denied Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton a hat-trick of successive pole positions to clinch top spot on the grid for Sunday's night-time Bahrain Grand Prix.

After clinching victory in last Sunday's race in Malaysia, Hamilton proceeded to dominate all three practice sessions in Bahrain, with Rosberg playing second fiddle.

But come qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit it was the current championship leader who took the spotlight by grabbing his first pole position since last May's Monaco Grand Prix.

The setting was at least spectacular, with the circuit lit by 5,000 luminaries arranged on 495 poles ranging in height from 10-45 metres.

As part of the track's 10th anniversary celebrations this year, the organisers are hosting a night race, joining Singapore and Abu Dhabi in that regard on the current calendar.

So far Mercedes have lit up the track on their own with blistering pace none of their rivals have been able to come close to.

Hamilton, however, made a mistake on his final run, locking up at one point and handing the initiative to Rosberg, who claimed pole for the second consecutive time at this track.

Behind the Mercedes duo it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo who took third, however, the Australian faces a 10-place grid penalty following an unsafe release from a pit stop in Malaysia and will start 13th.

It means all those drivers from fourth to 13th will move up a place, spearheaded by Williams' Valtteri Bottas, with Sergio Perez a superb fifth in qualifying in his Force India.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button in his McLaren were next up, followed by Felipe Massa in his Williams and the second McLaren and Ferrari of rookie Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso respectively.

A major surprise saw Sebastian Vettel fail to make the top 10 for the second time this season, and just a week after qualifying on the front row at Malaysia, albeit with the inclement conditions aiding his cause.

Vettel, however, finished four tenths of a second adrift of team-mate Ricciardo at the end of the second session, missing out on a place in the top 10 to Raikkonen by just 0.060secs.

The 26-year-old German could only qualify 11th, with Nico Hulkenberg 12th in his Force India, followed by Toro Rosso duo Daniel Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne, with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez 15th.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean could only manage 16th, with his car a second off top-10 pace at this track where he finished third a year ago.

The Frenchman, however, was impeded on one of his runs by the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, with the stewards - that this weekend include BRDC president Derek Warwick - to have another look at the incident.

Further down the field Lotus' Pastor Maldonado will start 17th, with Sutil joining the Venezuelan on row nine, pending the outcome of the stewards' hearing as the German may be held accountable.

Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi lines up 19th ahead of Jules Bianchi in his Caterham, with their respective team-mates Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton on the back row in 21st and 22nd.