One Ferrari dropping out before the final phase of qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix might have been expected, but neither scarlet car made the cut for the pole position shoot-out after Fernando Alonso made an error in Q2.
Having only narrowly escaped the Q3 'drop zone', Felipe Massa was tipped to struggle in the second session, but Alonso replicated the mistake made by others in free practice by putting two wheels on the grass entering turn one, spinning himself deep into the waiting gravel trap. Although he managed to keep the F2012 running, the Spaniard was forced to abandon it with half the session remaining, leaving him at the mercy of his rivals once the red flags were withdrawn.
It took some time for the double world champion to be pushed out of third position, but he finally lost his place in the pole shoot-out when Nico Hulkenberg improved to ninth spot with just minutes remaining. Hulkenberg's effort was good enough to see him through to the final phase, but Force India team-mate Paul di Resta joined Alonso and Massa in missing the cut, after his final flying lap failed to improve on 15th spot.
Also absent from the top ten will be rookie Jean-Eric Vergne, Kamui Kobayashi, Bruno Senna and Sergio Perez, the Mexican failing to set a time during the 15 minutes. Vergne, meanwhile, briefly looked poised to join Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in making it through to the final phase of qualifying, but his last lap left him just short of reclaiming a top ten place.
Mercedes added fuel to the fire surrounding its rear wing development by going 1-2 in the session courtesy of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, and the two Germans will also be joined in the fight for pole by Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and the surprising Pastor Maldonado, who gave Williams reason to smile by capitalising on his rivals' misfortune.