Mercedes team boss Niki Lauda said he had never seen anything like it after watching Lewis Hamilton scorch to pole position in the final seconds of Saturday's qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel had his championship lead cut to 12 points when Hamilton won in Canada earlier this month, and now faces an uphill struggle to fend off his rival again after qualifying fourth.
Behind, Force India duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took sixth and seventh, with the Williams' of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa just behind.
Asked about an incident in Q1 when Ricciardo thought the McLaren had blocked him, Alonso wryly told Sky F1: "Our speed is that slow that they think we are on a slow lap but no this is our speed, we are starting a timed lap so they get surprised a bit".
His quickest lap of 1min 40.593sec came in the final seconds of the session following a red-flagged stoppage which turned the finale into a 3min 30sec showdown.
"I am so pumped with that pole, and that is how qualifying should be", a jubilant Hamilton continued.
"My last lap in Montreal was pretty special but I think this one topped it", the three-time F1 champion said.
"Disappointing. I was going for the pole, but the lap at the end just wasn't quite that ideal", Bottas admitted. It was a lot of pressure. It is probably difficult for the public to understand why we are struggling but these tyres are really hard and we are trying all these things to get some temperature in the tyre, weaving like insane.
The pace of the top five teams ensured there wasn't much of a fight to make it through to Q3.
"The result is okay, but obviously I am not entirely happy". "Tomorrow will be a long hard race but we're in the best position to start".
The Toro Rosso cars claimed row six - but Carlos Sainz Jr. will drop three-places on the grid thanks to his Canadian GP penalty - ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg.
Romain Grosjean was 17th for Haas, struggling to find a balance, while Sauber's Marcus Ericsson was 18th.
19 cars started qualifying - Renault's Jolyon Palmer suffered an engine fire in the final free practice and had to sit it out.