Nick Heidfeld has become the first high-profile casualty of qualifying in F1 2011, after failing to make it through the first timed stage at the Australian Grand Prix.
The German, filling in for the injured Robert Kubica at Lotus Renault, had been expected to challenge for a top ten spot, but found himself in the drop zone with the chequered flag imminent. Although he improved enough on his final lap to climb out of danger, he made it only as far as 17th spot and, with Felipe Massa behind him on track, was easy prey for the Ferrari, albeit one that also appeared to be struggling for pace. Heidfeld's predicament was amplified by the fact that team-mate Vitaly Petrov posted the third-fastest time behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
Massa moved up to eleventh, but both he and team-mate Fernando Alonso needed to revert to the softer Pirelli tyres to ensure their safety, while rookie Paul di Resta also escaped the cut in the closing stages. That left both Team Lotus drivers and the two Marussia Virgins in the bottom seven, along with the hapless HRTs of Narain Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi which, although closer to the pace than the Indian had been in morning practice, still missed the re-instated 107 per cent mark, leaving them relying on the charity of their rivals if they are to race on Sunday.
Vettel , Hamilton and Mark Webber all took turns at the head of the pack before the German took control with a 1min 25.296secs lap. Alonso and the irrepressible Kamui Kobayashi completed the top five.