Jean-Eric Vergne was pushing hard on late in Q1 and still had a shot at ousting Kamui Kobayashi from progressing through to the second round of qualifying - until the Toro Rosso went for a spin in the final corners, wrecking his chances of making it through himself.
"It's quite frustrating to fail to make it to Q2 today," Vergne admitted after the session, before revealing that persistent oversteer issues had been the bane of his efforts so far at the 2012 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"We have been struggling all weekend with understeer and we are still trying to do our maximum and I was pushing a lot," he said. "We really only had one lap to see where the balance was this afternoon and the car seemed to be going the other way towards oversteer and I made a mistake."
His account was backed up by the team's new technical director James Key.
"We had a troublesome Friday, struggling with the balance on both cars, so the team did a good job to come with some changes that produced an improvement in today's Free Practice," he said. "The balance of the car is now far more driveable for both drivers. However, we really only had the three runs this morning so maybe there were further steps we could have taken if we'd had more runs."
But Vergne reckoned there was still plenty that the Toro Rosso team could do before the start of the race on Sunday afternoon to improve his prospects of making progress from his 18th place on the grid.
"There are still things we can do like playing with the front flap and tyre pressures to improve the situation for the race," he said. "But it's going to be a tough night tomorrow."
Vergne's team mate Daniel Ricciardo did manage to get through to Q2, but will start only one place ahead of the Frenchman for the race when the lights go out at Yas Marina Circuit.
"It's been a harder weekend for us than we had expected," conceded Ricciardo. "We definitely made progress today, compared to where we were on Friday, which is positive, but in the end it was not enough to move us higher up the grid.
"Everything went smoothly on my side of the garage, apart from losing a lap on the Prime, when my headrest was moving and I had to come in to have it fixed," the Australian revealed. "I think this motivated me to then do two really good laps and the pace on the Option was okay, showing we had made progress again, not just from yesterday, but also from this morning.
"However, we are not where we want to be," he admitted. "Strategy will be a key to having a good race tomorrow and like in India a one stop could be possible for some cars."