Mark Webber's frustrating Saturday continued into qualifying, as the hydraulic problems he suffered in final free practice contributed to the Australian missing the cut in opening qualifying.
The Red Bull driver, far from being able to post the sort of times that suggested he and team-mate Sebastian Vettel would be frontrunners, paid the penalty for missing most of the morning by only posting the 16th-best time on his first run on soft tyres, and then proved unable to climb back out of the drop zone when improvements from Jean-Eric Vergne and Bruno Senna deposited him back into the bottom seven.
With Timo Glock sidelined by a stomach bug, there were six slots to be filled by those missing the cut, and these appeared to be the German's Marussia team-mate Charles Pic, the two HRTs of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan and the Caterhams of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov. The Finn, however, had other ideas and posted a good enough lap with his final effort to make it to 17th and safety. His luckless victim was Vergne, who once again found himself exiting at the first attempt.
Pastor Maldonado and Paul di Resta posted the fastest laps of the 20-minute session, after Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa - amongst others - had taken turns in P1.