Paul di Resta escaped the ignominy of another early exit in qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix as neither Williams was able to improve late in the opening session.
For the fourth time this season, both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas were destined for an early bath as the FW35 proved incapable of producing times good enough to progress. di Resta, meanwhile, escaped by the skin of his teeth, complaining that he had been held up by Marussia's Jules Bianchi in the final sector of his flying lap.
The Williams boys joined the expected casualties in the bottom six, with Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde ensuring that Caterham will line up ahead of Marussia at the back of the grid. Whether the final sextet will be interrupted will now depend on where Mark Webber finishes qualifying, the Australian due to take a ten-place grid penalty at the end of the session.
At the top of the table, Kimi Raikkonen emerged with the fastest time, but only after he fitted Pirelli's supersoft rubber to ensure that he pulled away from the drop zone. Most drivers started the session on the medium compound, but many felt compelled to switch to the softer option as times began to tumble.
Nico Rosberg, who swapped compounds after a puncture was discovered on his first set of mediums, took second spot, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton – who sat out the final minutes after blitzing the previous benchmark – Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Gutierrez, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.