Jean-Eric Vergne was hamstrung by a lock-up and flat-spot at turn one on his final flying lap in opening qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and paid the penalty by dropping out along with the six usual suspects.

The Frenchman had been dumped into the 'drop zone' by Felipe Massa's improvement with three minutes to go, but proved unable to drag enough performance from his tortured Pirelli rubber to get his Toro Rosso STR7 into the second phase of qualifying.

Vergne was joined on the sidelines by the two Caterhams, with Heikki Kovalainen using a late lap to establish grid superiority over team-mate Vitaly Petrov, but the Finn will take a five-place grid penalty for overtaking under the =safety care in Australia, and drops to the back of the grid. That grid will be 24 cars strong this weekend, after both HRTs made it under the 107 per cent marker. Pedro de la Rosa will start ahead of Narain Karthikeyan, but both will line-up behind Timo Glock and Charles Pic of Marussia Racing.

Mark Webber claimed fastest time of the session for Red Bull Racing, hauling himself off the bubble and into top spot with just a couple of minutes remaining. The Australian deposed Mercedes' Michael Schumacher from P1, but all the expected contenders for pole position made it through to the second stage of qualifying.

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