Kimi Raikkonen was the surprise victim of the opening qualifying session of the 2012 F1 season, as a wild moment cost him a last chance effort to progress to part two of Saturday's timed session.
The Finn, taking part in his first qualifying session since 2009, was among the earliest drivers to take a shot at improving his position in the 20-minute session but, having dropped to 18th on the timesheets, needed a clear run to ensure safe passage. Instead, his Lotus put two wheels on the grass at turn twelve, costing vital seconds as Raikkonen failed to improve on his previous best. With no time to complete another flying lap, the Finn - a possible contender for the first few rows - was done for the day.
Raikkonen could have been joined by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who continued to struggle with the F2012, but escaped in the final few minutes, dumping his former team-mate into the 'drop zone'. The Brazilian eventually wound up 16th fastest, and will need to improve considerably if he is to make the top ten.
The other names to drop out of qualifying at the first hurdle came as no surprise, as Caterham, Marussia and HRT continued to bring up the rear. Heikki Kovalainen was closest to Raikkonen, but still trailed his countryman by nine-tenths, while new team-mate Vitaly Petrov was three-tenths further back. Timo Glock and rookie Charles Pic did enough to be included on the grid for the season-opener, having ducked well inside the 107 per cent time, but neither HRT made the grade, as feared by team principal Luis Perez Sala. Narain Karthikeyan, in particular, was little more than a rolling roadblock, and looks set to face repercussions from the stewards after blocking no fewer than three other drivers.
At the sharp end of the times, Kamui Kobayashi, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez all made good use of the softer Pirellis to top the charts.