Nick Heidfeld again failed to get the best out of his BMW Sauber in qualifying, bowing out in the opening phase of the Japanese Grand Prix session.
The German was among the last to make a qualifying run, but appeared to have done enough until the still drying track allowed a flurry of improvements late in the 20-minute segment. He was still safe until after the chequered flag, when local favourite Kazuki Nakajima improved and dropped the BMW into the bottom five.
Heidfeld joined the two Hondas and two Force Indias in missing the cut, with Jenson Button failing to find enough time on his last run for the former and team-mate Rubens Barrichello abandoning his attempt before crossing the line. Neither Adrian Sutil or Giancarlo Fisichella looked like making the Q2 grade for Force India.
Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso all escaped the 'drop zone' in the closing moments,but Heidfeld make a little consolation from the fact that BMW Sauber colleague Robert Kubica, who had topped morning practice, was only 14th, while Timo Glock stole the thunder of the expected frontrunners by taking the fastest time ahead of championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.
Finnish tailgunners Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen rounded out the top five.