Sergio Perez teetered on the brink of making the pole position shoot-out for the Japanese Grand Prix, only to be demoted from the top ten at the last gasp.
The bottom six places in the second phase of qualifying revolved rapidly in the final couple of minutes, and Perez – who may have been impeded by Mark Webber at the end of his first flying lap – sat tenth with nothing left on the clock. Felipe Massa, however, was still on track and in the drop zone, and the Brazilian pulled out a sufficient improvement to lift himself into sixth overall.
Perez, with no time to reply, missed out by little over a tenth and joined Paul di Resta – who thought he may have rescued himself with his own climb to sixth – Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez – who, having survived a pit garage fire in Q1, could not produce a third straight appearance in the shoot-out – Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo in bowing out.
Ricciardo, with the Toro Rosso team keen to avoid a repeat of the brake fire that scuppered team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne in Q1, completed just the one flying lap but, having jumped briefly into twelfth, found himself pushed back to P16 by the end.
Sebastian Vettel despite the KERS problems that truncated his FP3, produced the fastest lap of the weekend so far to top the timesheets, with only team-mate Mark Webber appearing capable of matching his 1min 31.290secs.
Q1 pacesetter Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Massa, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg completed the qualifiers for the final phase of the session.