Unable to rise to the challenge thrown down by Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso's fastest time in final free practice, Nelson Piquet Jr bowed out of qualifying at the first hurdle.
Dropping into the bottom five when David Coulthard wrestled his similarly-powered Red Bull car out of the drop zone, Piquet was unable to find time on his final run, and came up 0.009secs shy of reversing positions with the Scot.
That left the Brazilian in the company of Sebastien Bourdais, who claimed that his Toro Rosso had begun pulling to the left on his final run, leaving him to try and counter a wayward rear-end, Rubens Barrichello and the two Force Indias. Neither Adrian Sutil or Giancarlo Fisichella appeared to have the pace in practice to make it through to Q2 for the second successive race, but Fisichella did his hopes no favours by crashing in morning practice. Repaired in time for one flying run, the Italian veteran then put the car back into the wall at turn three, cementing his fate.
Kimi Raikkonen hauled himself out of an unfamiliar spot in the bottom five by posting the fastest time of the session - a weekend-best 1min 44.282secs - to put Ferrari on top of a timesheet for the first time this weekend. Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica completed the top five.