Romain Grosjean, one of the favourites to challenge Red Bull for the front row of the grid at the Indian Grand Prix, will instead start the race from 17th on the grid.
The Frenchman – and his Lotus team – opted to run the entire 20-minute session on the harder medium compound Pirelli tyre, happy in the belief that that could achieve the projected cut-off time without sacrificing a set of the faster soft rubber. However, a series of untidy laps, while achieving the target time, meant that he still came up short as the pace raised slightly in the closing moments.
Unable to go any faster on his chosen tyres, Grosjean fell through the trapdoor into the bottom six as Felipe Massa completed his final effort and jumped from P17 to P4. The Frenchman, who led in Japan last time out, was joined in the early bath by Williams' Pastor Maldonado, who was relegated from safety by his own team-mate, and the expected four backmarkers, who were led on this occasion by Marussia's Jules Bianchi. Giedo van der Garde made a late bid to push Caterham into Q2 but, having made it to P16, the last minute reshuffle saw him demoted to 20, where he will line up ahead of team-mate Charles Pic and Marussia's Max Chilton.
At the other end of the timesheet, Jenson Button produced a late lap to set the pace at 1min 25.574secs, putting his McLaren ahead of Mark Webber, Daniel Ricciardo, Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta and Fernando Alonso. Sebastian Vettel, who had topped all previous practice sessions, wound up eleventh after, like Grosjean, running the entire session on the medium tyre.