Heading into the qualifying session, McLaren were buoyed up with confidence and were hopeful of managing not just pole position but possibly even a front row lock-out, after Jenson Button had headed all the practice timesheets so far during the weekend.
In the end, Button fell short by just 0.009s - or the equivalent of 68cm at the finish line at the speeds the cars were doing - while Lewis Hamilton mistimed his final run and had to watch from the sidelines as Sebastian Vettel beat Button to pole position by the narrowest possible margin.
"This is the closest I've been to pole position all season, but it's still not pole!" rued Button. "But I'm satisfied, because I didn't leave anything out on the track today - I feel like I got everything I could from the car; there was nothing left."
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh was delighted with Button's performance despite missing out on pole. "Jenson did a great job in qualifying. In fact, he's been driving brilliantly all weekend.
"To miss out on pole by 9/1000ths of a second, which equates to a mere 68cm when travelling across the start/finish line at around 280km/h, is extremely unfortunate," Whitmarsh added. "But he's on the front row and in a very strong position for the race."
Button was impressed by how strong the team were looking this weekend at Suzuka, even though they didn't have any significant upgrades to being to Japan.
"We just got the car working well all weekend," he said. "We have a more efficient rear wing, particularly with DRS, but we've just made this car very quick on high-speed circuits. We were quick at Spa, and we're quick here too."