A scrappy second qualifying session has cost Felipe Massa and Ferrari heavily at Suzuka, with the Brazilian failing to make the cut and securing only twelfth on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Already under pressure to perform in support of team-mate Fernando Alonso's championship challenge, Massa suffered both mistakes and traffic on a three-lap run at the end of Q2, eventually missing the top ten by three-tenths, despite claiming a place back on his last attempt. While Alonso made the cut in fifth place, the Brazilian will line up outside Nick Heidfeld on the sixth row later in the day.
Heidfeld and Massa will be joined amongst the ranks of spectators for the final phase of qualifying by Renault's Vitaly Petrov, Local favourite Kamui Kobayashi, the two Force India's of Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi, who sandwiched the remaining Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari after another disappointing showing for the Silverstone team.
Red Bull Racing again set the pace, with Sebastian Vettel moving back to the head of the times late in the 15-minute session, usurping team-mate Mark Webber in the process. With Massa dropping out, McLaren took the opportunity to edge ahead of the remaining Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton heading Jenson Button in third and fourth.
Rubens Barrichello, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Kubica and Michael Schumacher - who made the cut by the skin of his teeth - will also contest the top ten shoot-out for pole.