Rubens Barrichello found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in the opening phase of knock-out qualifying, and was unable to find the tenths of a second he needed to haul himself out of the drop zone.

The Brazilian was dumped into the bottom seven by a late improvement from Pedro de la Rosa, and failed to go fast enough on his own final lap to overhaul the next man in the list, Tonio Liuzzi, and secure a place in the second round. Such was the competition in the midfield that Liuzzi had only just improved his own position to twelfth, but still found himself in danger of missing the cut for a second time this season.

The other victims of the session were, as expected, the three new teams, with Lotus heading the class with a comfortable margin over the rest. Jarno Trulli was narrowly faster than team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, while Timo Glock only just held off Virgin team-mate Lucas di Grassi for 21st. Glock, di Grassi and HRT's Karun Chandhok all face five-place penalties when the grid is lined up, however.

The pace was set, as expected, by Red Bull, with Mark Webber edging Sebastian Vettel, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button third and fourth.