A topsy-turvy and frenetic end to the first ever phase of qualifying at the European Grand Prix's new home in Valencia saw both Jenson Button and David Coulthard make an early exit.

Although both appeared safe with a couple of minutes remaining in the 20-minute session, a series of faster laps from those in the drop zone undermined their position, dropping the pair to an eventual 16th and 17th respectively.

Button's Honda team-mate Rubens Barrichello and the two Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil - both running the team's new seamless shift gearbox - failed to break out of the bottom five, but late improvements from Nelson Piquet Jr and Nick Heidfeld, and then from Kazuki Nakajima and Mark Webber after they had dropped into the danger zone did for Button and Coulthard.

Piquet and Heidfeld were lucky to make the cut, having appeared to be blocked by Timo Glock's Toyota, and the younger German may yet face sanction for his inattentiveness. He ended the session in seventh, while his victims somehow managed to climb to 15th and 14th by the chequered flag.

The session was headed by Glock's Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli, who overcame his morning gearbox problem to post the first 1min 37secs lap of the weekend, while Sebastian Vettel claimed second for Toro Rosso. Ferrari appeared to struggle until Felipe Massa banged in a 1min 38.176secs effort to depose Lewis Hamilton.

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