As if missing out on the final phase of qualifying in Abu Dhabi wasn't frustrating enough for Heikki Kovalainen, the Finn then discovered that he would have to start a further five places back from his original 13th position.

The McLaren driver had topped the times on the opening day at Yas Marina, and looked a good bet to join team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the top ten shoot-out, with many predicting a potential all-silver front row. However, having needed a late lap to make it into Q2 after an early spin, Kovalainen managed just one flying lap in the second phase before being sidelined by a transmission problem.

Having been left to watch what was, at that stage, a top ten time slide down the order as others improved in the final minutes, the Finn subsequently learned that his mechanics had deemed the damaged unit too far gone to be repaired, meaning that he would be obliged to take the five-place penalty that comes with a gearbox change.

"What a disappointing outcome to my qualifying," Kovalainen sighed, "I got stuck in second gear during Q2 and that was it. I already had minor problems with the gearbox yesterday, when it jumped out of gear, so it's frustrating when you have a car you can easily take into Q3.

"But I'm looking at the positives - the balance of my car has been good throughout the entire weekend, and it's been great to drive on this fantastic circuit. You can absolutely guarantee I'll be giving it my all in the race tomorrow and I'll be fighting from the first lap to the very last."

Team-mate Hamilton cruised to pole position, and looks likely to be a strong pre-race favourite for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.