Three men in their final races for their current teams followed behind, with Sergio Perez 13th as Sauber continued to struggle for outright speed with Michael Schumacher starting his final race in F1 from 14th. Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso duo Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out those drivers to fall in Q2.
What that meant was that the big casualty in the opening phase of the session was Romain Grosjean, who dropped out with the three new teams to leave him with an awful lot to do on race day.
Having shown top six pace in the final practice session in the morning, the Frenchman saw his chances of a good grid slot disappear when he clashed with the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa coming round the final corner – with Grosjean trying to go through an ever-decreasing gap up the inside of the Spaniard and then hitting the rear of his car.
Damage to his front wing meant Grosjean was forced to pit for a change and although he was able to get back out for one final flying lap, he was unable to set a time quick enough to make it into Q2.
Of the new teams, Vitaly Petrov was quickest for Caterham having edged out team-mate Heikki Kovalainen ahead of what could be the final race for both with the team, with Timo Glock's Marussia half a second further back.
Charles Pic starts his final race in the second MArussia from 22nd with Narain Karthikeyan quicker than de la Rosa, who suffered damage to the rear of his car in the incident with Grosjean.
The HRT pair were more than a second behind their rivals in what could be the team's final appearance in F1, should it fail to find a buyer during the off-season.