Felipe Massa admitted that his side of the Ferrari garage had not been able to get on top of an issue with his F138 that ultimately prevented him from making it through to the final phase of qualifying at the USGP.

The problem, which the Brazilian was unable to put his finger on, denied him another opportunity of out-qualifying team-mate Fernando Alonso, as he had done at the first USGP in Austin a year ago, and at several races more recently in 2013. Instead, Massa - who leaves Ferrari for Williams at the end of the year - was left floundering in 15th position on the Q2 timesheets, a position that will only improve thanks to the penalty imposed on McLaren's Jenson Button.

"That was a very difficult qualifying," Massa confirmed, "From [Friday] afternoon onwards, I haven't been able to drive the car properly, something isn't working and we haven't managed to work out why.

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"I don't think I've got a specific problem, but there really is very little grip, both at the front and the rear, and I wasn't quick on either compound [of tyre]. It is very strange, because Fernando managed to adapt better to the car-tyre package and I can't understand why I can't do the same, especially as I like this track a lot.

"I never expected to find myself struggling so much. Now we must find a solution for tomorrow because, even if it will be a difficult race, we have to do our utmost to move up the order and bring home points that will be valuable for the constructors' classification."

Ferrari heads into the penultimate race of the season trailing Mercedes by eleven points, but has each of its cars lining up behind one of the Silver Arrows after Nico Rosberg suffered a similarly frustrating qualifying session and also missed the Q2 cut.

"Leaving aside the outcome of this qualifying, it's hard to give a clear explanation of how the weekend has gone," Ferrari's Pat Fry admitted, "The performances seen up to today have been affected by a series of variables and, if one leaves out the Red Bulls, I think that, for the rest of the field, it's been more demanding than usual to understand the behaviour of the cars. The changing weather and the varying levels of grip have added an extra challenge when it comes to establishing the set up and understanding the behaviour of the compounds chosen for this race.

"I am sorry for Felipe, who didn't manage to get to Q3. Even though he gave it his all, he struggled a lot to find the right feeling, mainly because of the lack of grip. Fernando was better able to adapt, and the result he got today during a very difficult weekend, is down to his great talent. Certainly our aims are higher than a sixth place, but the reduced gap to third place is a great boost for all the team to do their very best in this final part of the season."