Michael Schumacher escaped the ignominy of being dumped out of Chinese GP qualifying by a mere three-hundredths of a second as the final minute of phase two saw the lower top 10 positions change and change again.
With all bar the top four drivers opting to venture out and protect their positions, Schumacher dropped down the order to be sitting ‘on the bubble’ as the chequered flag waved. However, with former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello having completed his lap, there was no-one poised to topple the seven-time world champion from his position in the top 10 shoot-out.
Barrichello appeared poised to join the German after clawing his way into tenth spot, but Adrian Sutil, having been demoted by the Brazilian, returned the favour by vaulting into ninth, leaving Schumacher perilously placed.
It was Barrichello who came closest to making the top ten, however, the Williams driver joining team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso duo Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and the two Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa on the sidelines.
Lewis Hamilton again topped the times, this time from Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel filling out the top five. Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Robert Kubica complete the shoot-out participants, although both McLarens continue to report false neutrals that the team hopes will remain confined to the slow speed in and out laps, rather than the crucial fliers.