Adrian Sutil came off worst in an intra-team Force India battle to determine who survived into the second phase of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix after twice failing to improve his lap time at Interlagos.
With Force India struggling all round, Sutil was locked in a fight with team-mate Tonio Liuzzi on a damp Sao Paulo circuit, and twice swapped positions with the Italian, but could not extract enough time from his VJM03 when it mattered. With two flying laps before the chequered flag, the German came up short on both occasions, joining the six expected casualties in missing the cut.
There was good news for Virgin Racing, which saw Timo Glock get the better of the two Lotus drivers to claim 'new team' pole. The German had been jut a tenth of a second shy of Sutil until the Force India man moved ahead of Liuzzi, and eventually wound up 1.5secs adrift, with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen breathing down his neck. The second Virgin car of Lucas di Grassi, racing on home soil this weekend, was next up, half a second off Kovalainen, while Christian Klien got the better of Bruno Senna in the HRT battle after the Brazilian spun in the closing moments.
Sutil, of course, will now have to take a five-place grid penalty ahead of the race on Sunday, potentially dropping him to the back row.
Fernando Alonso fired a warning that Ferrari will be a force in the battle for pole should the conditions remain wet, coming out on top of a three-way battle for top spot with the two Red bull drivers. Mark Webber was second quickest, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, with Robert Kubica and Kamui Kobayashi rounding out the top five.