Lewis Hamilton insists he did have enough time to do a final flying lap in qualifying but "dangerous" driving from rivals cost him.
With drivers heading out for their final run in qualifying at Suzuka, Hamilton was sitting at the top of the timesheets with a 1:30.617 and looked good to challenge for pole position.
However, the McLaren was one of the last to venture out, just ahead of Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher.
And with everyone leaving it very late, it was a mad dash for the line with Hamilton losing out after being overtaken by both Webber and Schumacher.
The end result was the McLaren driver was not able to put in another flying lap and dropped to P3, behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button.
"You could see on TV. I would have to watch replay," said Hamilton.
"Jenson was in front of me, he slowed down to get his gap and I was coming to the last corner trying to make sure I had a gap between him and me.
"It wasn't that big and then just was I was coming into the chicane, I looked in the mirror and saw Mark diving inside me.
"And then I didn't see Michael but he came past me and we nearly crashed with me to the left. It was quite dangerous."
However, while unrepentant at the post-qualifying press conference, in a later interview Hamilton painted a slightly different picture.
"It was my mistake," he told the BBC.
"I should have got out sooner but I was making a wing change and I went out too late."