Sahara Force India driver Adrian Sutil was ninth fastest while rain spoiled his teammate Paul di Resta's chances of making the Q3 in the chaotic Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying here Saturday.
Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull took pole position with a time of 1:49.674, pipping Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who set 1:50.587 and 1:50.727 in a dramatic third session of the day.
Both Force India drivers looked set to for a top-10 after an impressive third practice where Sutil and di Resta were third and sixth fastest.
The team got the strategy wrong in the case of Di Resta, who was called before setting a time in the initial part of Q2. Minutes after that, rain started at the Sepang International Circuit, making parts of the track slippery. That led the Scot going off at turn 7 in his second run before making another failed attempt to end 15th.
The rain stopped in Q3 but the track was wet by then resulting in the drivers going for the intermediates.
Sutil, who had looked extremely strong in the dry weather, struggled in wet conditions and ended setting the ninth fastest time of 1:53.439, almost four second slower than Vettel.
"It's a shame that the rain arrived for Q3 because our pace in the dry had been very strong. I'm still not totally confident with these tyres in the wet and the car was sliding around in the corners with too much oversteer. I will hope for a dry race because we have a competitive car and I'm happy with the balance. The target is to try and push to the front tomorrow with a good strategy and come away with points or maybe more," said the German.
Di Resta too was disappointed. "Quite a frustrating day because we got caught out by the weather. We've looked strong this weekend so felt quite confident heading into qualifying, but the rain arrived earlier than the team expected," he said.
Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley said some strategic mistakes cost them a good qualifying result.
"In Q2 we misjudged the weather with the rain coming in earlier than anticipated, which proved very costly for Paul who didn't have time to complete his quick lap in the dry. Adrian progressed to Q3 but struggled in the wet conditions and didn't feel comfortable on the intermediates."