The Italian went fastest early in Q2 after ensuring he exited the pits in the midst of the RML and Bamboo Cruzes, giving him the perfect tow for his opening lap.
That strategy proved crucial, although Tarquini's pacesetting 1m44.358s also owed to a degree of fortune as late traffic prevented the Cruze drivers from fighting back.
Tom Chilton, in particular, had been on an extremely quick lap and was half a second under Tarquini's time after the second sector, only for his advantage to melt away as a result of a mistake in the final hairpin.
Chilton had also had to pass Fernando Monje's Campos SEAT earlier in the lap, with the Spaniard's late arrival effectively preventing any of the frontrunners - who had all been running in one pack - from improving.
The order was therefore decided by the opening salvos, with Tarquini taking pole, 0.048s ahead of Briton James Nash in the lead Bamboo car.
Yvan Muller and Michel Nykjaer share the second row, with Chilton forced to settle for fifth, just ahead of the second Bamboo Cruze of Alex MacDowall.
World champion Rob Huff and Munnich SEAT team-mate Marc Basseng will start seventh and eighth.
Monje was released in a bid to earn 10th spot, which was up for grabs as damage to the cars of James Thompson and Tom Coronel left both unable to compete in Q2.
Unlike at Monza, Thompson's issue was of his own doing as he knocked the front left of his car against a wall in Q1.
Coronel meanwhile misjudged his braking at Turn 10 in the preliminary session and went into the back of ROAL BMW team-mate Darryl O'Young.
O'Young had helped tow Coronel into the top 12 at his own expense moments before. The Hong Kong racer will start both races from 13th.
It was one of several incidents in a scrappy Q1.
Home favourite Mehdi Bennani also hit the wall, while Tarquini's team-mate Tiago Monteiro brought out the red flags when he crashed into the wall at the second chicane and, unable to rejoin (pictured), could only watch as he was slowly bumped from the top 12.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Gabriele Tarquini Honda 1m44.358s 2. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet 1m44.406s + 0.048s 3. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet 1m44.504s + 0.146s 4. Michel Nykjaer NIKA Chevrolet 1m44.745s + 0.387s 5. Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet 1m44.863s + 0.505s 6. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 1m45.060s + 0.702s 7. Rob Huff Munnich SEAT 1m45.228s + 0.870s 8. Marc Basseng Munnich SEAT 1m45.552s + 1.194s 9. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m46.341s + 1.983s 10. Fernando Monje Campos SEAT 1m55.405s + 11.047s 11. James Thompson Lada No time 12. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW No time 13. Darryl O'Young ROAL BMW 1m46.327s (Q1) 14. Tiago Monteiro Honda 1m46.396s (Q1) 15. Fredy Barth Wiechers BMW 1m46.412s (Q1) 16. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m46.494s (Q1) 17. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 1m46.629s (Q1) 18. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m46.660s (Q1) 19. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m46.713s (Q1) 20. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m47.140s (Q1) 21. Stefano D'Aste PB BMW 1m47.390s (Q1) 22. Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada 1m47.598s (Q1) 23. Rene Munnich Munnich SEAT 1m49.222s (Q1)
Volvo gave the World Touring Car Championship a major boost when it announced it would enter the series, but its ambitions don't stop there. JACK COZENS examines its programme, the S60 and what its arrival means for the WTCC
The 2012 World Touring Car champion says he never had the money to race cars. Yet 2015 is his 11th season in the WTCC. He talks STUART CODLING through his journey from motorsport fan to paid professional - for little more than £100,000