At a circuit where Force India really was tipped to be a force, Vitantonio Liuzzi bowed out in the opening phase of qualifying after his session proved more akin to farce.
The Italian had already suffered problems in Saturday morning's free practice session, but the team was unable to trace the cause, leaving Liuzzi to trust his luck in the opening 20-minute qualifying session. Typically, therefore, the former F3000 champion struggled with a massively down on power engine, meaning he was powerless to challenge for a place among the 17 drivers to progress to Q2.
Liuzzi will start behind both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, after the Lotus team also took advantage of his plight, while Virgin's Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi also got close to the Force India but will have to be content with 21st and 22nd ahead of HRT's Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto. All may move up in the final reckoning, however, if the stewards - headed by double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi - decide to penalise Renault's Vitaly Petrov for blocking Glock's first flying lap. The Russian made it through to Q2, but was only 15th fastest. Glock, however, has taken a penalty of his own, giving up five places after changing his gearbox.
At the front, Ferrari gave the tifosi
something to cheer after Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso annexed the top two times, pushing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button back to third and fourth. Renault's Robert Kubica rounded out the top five as Red Bull tried in vain to get close to its title rivals. Mark Webber, however, was still trying to make up for lost time after stopping during morning practice, and duly trailed team-mate Sebastian Vettel in sixth and seventh places.