Pastor Maldonado found himself dumped out of the qualifying for the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix as changeable conditions produced a tense end to Q1.

The 20-minute session appeared to have been resolved by mid-distance as the rain returned to Interlagos and made improvements in lap time very difficult, if not impossible. Heikki Kovalainen was among those who found himself at the wrong end of the timesheets after the opening runs, but moving up a couple of spots dropped Mark Webber into the bottom six.

With the rain increasing, it appeared for a moment that the Australian could be forced to start his final grand prix from the back of the field, but he then produced a flier of his own to jump into ninth, sending Jean-Eric Vergne through the trap-door. The Frenchman was naturally frustrated, scolding his team for the timing of his run, and his mood looked set to deepen as the minutes ticked by and he remained mired in 17th spot. Although Esteban Gutierrez then jumped above him, albeit without escaping the 'drop zone', it wasn't until Kovalainen hauled himself from 14th to fifth that those on track could take encouragement.

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Digging deep, Vergne then did enough to move up three spots, slotting into 15th and pushing Maldonado below the cut-off - a position from which he could not escape despite having one last flying lap in his Williams. The Venezuelan, who continues to be linked to Lotus, Sauber and Force India for next year, joins Gutierrez, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton on the sidelines.

Such were the deteriorating conditions, Lewis Hamilton topped the times with the very first flying lap of the session...