Whether distracted by the latest shenanigans off-track or not, neither McLaren driver proved quick enough to make it through to the final pahse of qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
With Felipe Massa already out after an error in Q1, the opportunity was there for Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen to take advantage, but the pair proved good enough only for 13th and 14th in the second knock-out session, having been bumped out of the all-important top ten.
The pair were joined at the death by BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, bumped by Fernando Alonso's recovery lap, the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Bourdais' out-classed Toro Rosso.
Jenson Button kept Brawn GP at the head of the field, posting the fastest lap of the weekend after bolting on a set of soft Bridgestones to post a 1min 34.784secs benchmark.
Jarno Trulli, Mark Webber, Timo Glock and Sebastian Vettel completed the top five.