Reigning world champion Jenson Button needed last ditch lap to ensure that he made the third and final phase of qualifying ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, as the times at the front of the field proved closely matched.
The Briton was eleventh fastest when the 15-minute second session took a lull, but was able to summon up just enough time on his final run to secure a top ten spot, pushing Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello out of the shoot-out in the process. Button was the only driver to escape the seven-man danger zone as the entire field piled out in the last couple of minutes, with Tonio Liuzzi coming up short and joining the second Williams of rookie Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber duo Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi, Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Renault newcomer Vitaly Petrov in falling by the wayside.
With a single ten-minute session remaining, the battle for pole appears to be boiling down to a four-way scrap between the Ferrari and Red Bull pairings, with Sebastian Vettel the only man to head the times in Q2, but being closely chased by Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa.
Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil and Michael Schumacher join the frontrunners in the shoot-out, with 1.3secs splitting first and tenth.