A frenetic end to the second phase of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix saw Michael Schumacher once more drop out of the race for pole position as 14 drivers effectively jockeyed for a spot in the top ten.

Although the front of the grid was not up for grabs, a late mechanical problem that stranded Vitaly Petrov out on track - and brought out the red flag - meant that the final two minutes of the session became crucial for those attempting to get themselves into the shoot-out.

Ironically, while Petrov had pushed himself into the reckoning, Renault team-mate Nick Heidfeld was obliged to join the throng having not set a time in the opening 13 minutes, while the likes of Michael Schumacher and Q1 pacesetter Nico Rosberg both needed to run again to get themselves into the leading group. In the end, only the younger German made enough of an improvement, getting at least one Mercedes into the top ten, but Schumacher made a minor mistake that not only cost him a shot, but also potentially caused those in his wake to lose vital tenths as well.

Schumacher wound up 14th, his third successive failure to make the pole shoot-out, while Heidfeld will line up only 16th. Adrian Sutil was the man bumped by Rosberg's improvement, while Force India team-mate Paul di Resta finished tenth, albeit with a car that sounded les than healthy. Sauber twins Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, and Williams team-mates Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado also missed the cut, with the Brazilian calling for Petrov to be penalised for not getting his ailing car off the road.

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button set the pace for McLaren, with Sebastian Vettel the only other driver able to match their times, while Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Toro Rosso pairing Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari joining them in the battle for pole.