Michael Schumacher was at a loss to explain why he lacked the pace needed to make it into the pole position shoot-out in India.
The seven-time World Champion, who is bidding farewell to F1 at the end of this season, will line-up 14th on the grid at the Buddh International circuit.
However, his lap time in qualifying - a 1:26.574 - left the German perplexed as it was only a tenth quicker than his best from FP3 despite it being set on a low fuel load.
"We had a tough qualifying session today and I cannot yet really explain why, particularly when I compare the times to what I did this morning," he said.
"In practice, we were able to run similar lap times with much more fuel in the car but, for whatever reason, we were unable to get the tyres into the right working window and generate enough grip this afternoon.
"That means I am starting from quite an unpromising position tomorrow, but it also makes our tactics much simpler: we have to look forward and battle hard."
But while Schumacher didn't make it into Q3, his team-mate Nico Rosberg did, although the German did not set a lap time.
Explaining the decision not to run, he said: "In terms of our strategy for the race, it was better for us not to run in Q3 as it should give us a better pace tomorrow with fresh tyres.
"Of course it's not a nice feeling to be waiting in the pits and watching the others out there however.
"It seems that the race will be tough on the tyres with very long stints, so I should have an advantage compared to the cars in front of me.
"I'll be able to tell you tomorrow if it was the right decision but I'm reasonably happy today as we looked like we have made a small improvement here."