David Coulthard and Jenson Button both made early exits from qualifying at the European Grand Prix, unable to repeat their practice form and capitulating in the opening phase of the timed session.

Both drivers found themselves in the bottom six 'drop zone' with just a handful of minutes remaining and, while Coulthard - who had been baulked by Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber on his first run - left the pits too late to complete a warm-up lap before the chequered flag came out, Button managed to find time despite oversteer, but not enough to haul the Honda in the second session.

The pair were joined in the bottom six by the expected Spyker duo, Adrian Sutil and Manfred Winkelhock unable to do anything about the F8-VII's lack of pace, and the two Toro Rossos, with Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed failing to match their showing from free practice three, when they took eleventh and 14th respectively.

That meant that the two Super Aguris, which had struggled for pace in the morning session, made it through to the second stage of qualifying, although Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson only survived by the narrowest of margins, ending the first 15 minutes 15th and 16th fastest after both appearing in the top three early on. Nico Rosberg had featured in the drop zone before bolting on his second set of tyres, but eventually ended the session in seventh.

Fernando Alonso topped the times for the first time all weekend, the Spaniard clocking 1min 31.074secs to head Felipe Massa by nearly four tenths. Erstwhile pacesetters Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton were third and fourth fastest, ahead of the BMW Saubers.

 

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