F1's longest serving driver, Rubens Barrichello, bowed out in the opening phase of qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix as the two Williams pilots battled to avoid the final space in the 'drop zone'.

The Brazilian, along with team-mate Pastor Maldonado, waited until the dying moments of the 20-minute session before taking to the track, leaving time for just two flying laps. Although both escaped from the foot of the timesheets, improvements elsewhere quickly relegated Maldonado back into the bottom seven. With a lap apiece remaining, the battle to make Q2 appeared to be between the Williams pair, but Barrichello appeared to abort his lap after catching - and passing - one of the Force Indias in the final sector. That was enough to allow Maldonado to vault the Brazilian, claiming 16th spot and ensuring his team-mate would take no further part in the session.

Barrichello, as expected, joins the six drivers regularly filling the final three rows of the grid, as Team Lotus, Marussia Virgin and HRT in the bottom six places. Heikki Kovalainen again had the upper hand over Jarno Trulli at Lotus, while Timo Glock and Tonio Liuzzi will both start ahead of less experienced colleagues at the other backmarkers.

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, kept McLaren's name at the top of the times, ending the session four-tenths clear of team-mate Jenson Button, with Renault's Vitaly Petrov in third, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg. The two Red Bulls were only tenth and eleventh, despite leaving the pits on Pirelli's supersoft tyres, suggesting that they were focusing more on race strategy and set-up in a session that they ought to emerge from without undue concern.

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