A technical problem for Kamui Kobayashi ensured that a lot of the tension was taken out of the opening phase of qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, with the Sauber driver sidelined before even setting a time.
The Japanese ace was the first on track at Istanbul Park, but failed to completed a flying lap after the fuel system on his C30 shut down as he approached the final chicane. Unable to make it back to the pit-lane without assistance from the marshals, there was no chance of being allowed back out on track to fight for a spot in Q2.
That realistically left six spots for the three teams that joined the grid last season but, while that is the way the session eventually paned out, Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen at least made it interesting by lapping quicker than Force India's Paul di Resta on his first run. That made the Scot fight for position, eventually dropping his Finnish rival back into the bottom seven. Kovalainen tried to respond and got to within half a second of Rubens Barrichello, who ended up 17th in the session.
The second Lotus of Jarno Trulli backed Kovalainen up in 19th, comfortably ahead of the Virgins and HRTs at the back of the pack. Rookie Jerome d'Ambrosio wound up fastest of the tailenders, with Tonio Liuzzi putting his Hispania between the two red-and-black machines after pipping Timo Glock by a tenth.
At the top of the timesheets, Felipe Massa proved marginally quicker than Red Bull team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, but wasted a set of tyres attempting to escape the clutches of the drop zone. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was close behind in fourth, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top six.