Sergey Sirotkin took pole position for the opening Formula Renault 3.5 race of his home event at Moscow Raceway on Saturday morning.
The Sauber Formula 1 test driver, who also topped Friday's free practice running, was one of the first drivers to improve when the field started its second runs, moving fastest with the first sub-1m21s lap of the weekend.
Low track temperatures meant that there was not much time remaining once the drivers had their new tyres up to speed, and with fewer improvements than usual Sirotkin's benchmark did not come under much threat.
Roberto Merhi appeared to have sealed second on the grid just before the chequered flag came out, but he was pipped by one of the last cars across the line as 2013 Formula Renault Eurocup champion Pierre Gasly moved onto the front row.
Away from the action at the front, the big shock of qualifying was the difficulties of championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr and his DAMS team - which had warned him prior to this weekend that this would be one of its toughest weekends of the year.
The French cars were never in the mix at the front, and as the session was drawing to a close, Sainz was set to start on the back row, just behind his team-mate and Monaco race winner Norman Nato.
The Spaniard - who leads Gasly by 43 points coming into this weekend - salvaged 16th with his final lap, relegating Nato to the back row in 19th.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sergey Sirotkin Fortec 1m20.992s 2. Pierre Gasly Arden 1m21.211s +0.219s 3. Roberto Merhi Zeta 1m21.223s +0.231s 4. Zoel Amberg AVF 1m21.269s +0.277s 5. Pietro Fantin Draco 1m21.304s +0.312s 6. Oliver Rowland Fortec 1m21.372s +0.380s 7. Jazeman Jaafar ISR 1m21.487s +0.495s 8. Oscar Tunjo Pons 1m21.510s +0.518s 9. Will Stevens Strakka 1m21.519s +0.527s 10. Richie Stanaway Lotus 1m21.709s +0.717s 11. Marlon Stockinger Lotus 1m21.761s +0.769s 12. Matias Laine Strakka 1m21.779s +0.787s 13. Will Buller Arden 1m21.834s +0.842s 14. Beitske Visser AVF 1m21.863s +0.871s 15. Meindert van Buuren Pons 1m21.888s +0.896s 16. Carlos Sainz Jr DAMS 1m21.895s +0.903s 17. Luca Ghiotto Draco 1m21.992s +1.000s 18. Marco Sørensen Tech 1 1m22.088s +1.096s 19. Norman Nato DAMS 1m22.104s +1.112s 20. Roman Mavlanov Zeta 1m22.276s +1.284s