Vitantonio Liuzzi again bowed out in the opening phase of qualifying after failing to improve his time on a last-ditch effort.
The Italian, who has fallen foul of the axe on three occasions already this season, appeared on course to escape the drop zone - and condemn Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi to an early exit - but lost his advantage ion the final sector and could not improve on 18th place. He joins the usual suspects on the sidelines, as Lotus, Virgin and HRT all succumbed, with Jarno Trulli edging Timo Glock for new team honours.
FP3 pacesetter Robert Kubica left it late to ensure that he avoided the drama of not qualifying in the top half of the grid, but eventually wound up sixth, while Liuzzi's Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari and Sauber's Nick Heidfeld all staged late escapes from 17th spot.
Lewis Hamilton set the pace at the front of the field, lapping a hundredth of a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, and three clear of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. Mark Webber and Felipe Massa completed the top five, with Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher joining Nico Hulkenberg and a lacklustre Jenson Button in the top ten.