Having lost Heikki Kovalainen in Q1, McLaren was left without a driver for the final segment of Spanish Grand Prix qualifying after Lewis Hamilton become the big name to fall in Q2.
Hamilton had admitted he expected a tough weekend for the Mercedes-powered team at Catalunya and Hamilton duly proved unable to post a time quick enough to make it through to the top ten and he could only qualify in 14th place.
As per usual, a series of late laps in the session saw some drivers who thought they had made it through, suddenly knocked out – including Nelson Piquet who had looked good to make it to the top ten before being shuffled back to twelfth behind Kazuki Nakajima, who failed to build on his practice pace with the eleventh quickest time.
Nick Heidfeld also fell for BMW Sauber and will start 13th, with Sebastien Buemi in 15th. Buemi suffered a spin at turn nine early in the session and while he escaped from the gravel trap, the need to return to the pits to check the car lost him time and he could only manage 15th.
Rubens Barrichello was quickest in the second segment ahead of Mark Webber and Timo Glock, while Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso will now battle for pole.