It looked as though Sebastian Vettel had pole position in the bag, but in the final seconds Lewis Hamilton nipped ahead - leaving the reigning world champion wondering what more he could have done.
"I was pretty happy with both laps," he insisted. "Maybe on the second I was losing out a bit in the middle sector and perhaps I wasn't aggressive enough, but it's no help to sit here now and say we should have done this or that. At the end of the day my lap wasn't quick enough."
"To miss out on the pole by half a tenth of a second, demonstrates how close the grid is here," contributed Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, looking on the brighter side. "Sebastian looked competitive throughout qualifying and it's positive to be starting on the front row of the grid at a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake at."
Anyone doubting how much qualifying means to a F1 diver need only look at the clear disappointment on Vettel's face, despite the German knowing that he stands a good chance of reversing the situation as soon as the lights go out at the start of Sunday's race.
"I would have loved to have been a little bit faster and be on pole," Vettel admitted. "There wasn't much missing in that session." That said, Vettel was quick to offer credit where it was due and to laud Hamilton's third pole position in a row in 2013.
"Lewis did a good job," said Vettel. "Mercedes have a very strong qualifying pace. Lewis did an exceptional job today, also if you look at the gap to Nico, you have to be fair and respect that."
Meanwhile Vettel's Red Bull team mate Mark Webber was never in the running for pole position, suffering from technical problems early in Q1 that left him relieved simply to make it through to Q3.
"It's a shame Mark had a problem with the gears and KERS today, so he wasn't able to challenge for the front," noted Vettel.
"That was a massively disappointing qualifying session," agreed Webber. Obviously we had a lot of issues with the car and we left a lot of lap time in the garage, with items which weren't working on the car at their optimum.
"We had no KERS, and a basic gearbox setting that we couldn't get out of, which cost a lot of lap time," he explained. "I was happy with how I drove, but it doesn't count in qualifying when you need everything at the absolute limit.