Neither Sauber or Force India managed to get a car through to the final stage of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while Mercedes saw Nico Rosberg sneak into Q3 at the last gasp.
With almost the entire field on the softer Pirelli tyres, there were few variations to play with, but the expected names appeared at the top of the timesheets, leaving the midfield runners to fight amongst themselves for survival. With five minutes remaining in the 15-minute session, Nico Hulkenberg was living up to his FP3 performance by holding down a spot that would have qualified him for the pole position shoot-out, but, despite few moves between the drop zone and safety, the German was eventually usurped by countryman Rosberg, who proved to be the only escapee from the bottom seven.
Hulkenberg remained in eleventh place, ahead of Sergio Perez - who may still face a grid drop for blocking Bruno Senna in Q1 - and Force India team-mate Paul di Resta, who improved his time but not by enough to move higher than a provisional 13th in the final scheme of things. The Scot did at least outgun seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, Senna, Kamui Kobayashi and Daniel Ricciardo.
Lewis Hamilton twice overcame faster times from Red Bull's Mark Webber to claim top spot for the second time in two qualifying phases, while Sebastian Vettel moved ahead of title rival Fernando Alonso to take third spot, despite another couple of ragged laps. Lotus duo Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were next up, while Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado joined them in Q3.