Sebastian Vettel admitted on Saturday that his Red Bull car was simply not fast enough for him to qualify in the top ten for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
The defending double world champion flopped in the Q2 session and wound up 11th and was later fined 10,000 euros for practising starts in the pit lane.
To cap a miserable day for his Red Bull team, team-mate Australian Mark Webber was given a five-places grid penalty after an enforced gearbox change. He qualified seventh, but will start 12th.
The 25-year-old German Vettel missed out on a place in the top ten shootout by 0.012 seconds, but said nothing in particular had been wrong.
He said: ""I was pretty happy with my lap, it was just not quick enough unfortunately.
"I missed the last part of qualifying by such a little amount and that's a shame, but that's racing. It's frustrating but it could be the other way around and you are in and somebody else is out.
"But obviously there are no points today and the race is tomorrow."
He admitted his disappointing result was a surprise.
"I was quite surprised that this morning it felt pretty alright and this afternoon it just didn't come together," Vettel said. "The lap was clean, there were no mistakes, but it wasn't quick enough."
Webber had similar sentiments.
He said: "I'm disappointed. I think that we would like to have been further up the grid, no question about it.
"Not quick enough for us to challenge for the front row and that obviously knocks the penalty around a little bit more. I would've liked to have been further up to take the sting off the penalty.
"I was pretty happy with my lap. The maximum was P5 if I'd got the very most out of it.
"I had some very good sections on the lap and then some other sections where I would've liked to have done a little bit better.
"But I got the most out of what we had and at the moment that's not enough."
Vettel was fined 10,000 Euros for conducting a practice start in the pit-lane during final practice.
He was summoned to see the stewards before qualifying because teams and drivers had been told that practice starts in the pits were outlawed this weekend.
The race stewards suggested the penalty could have been worse if the team had not informed race director Charlie Whiting of the breach after it happened.
A statement issued by the FIA said: "In mitigation of the penalty is the fact that the team and driver immediately realised their error and reported it to the race director.
"The team also reported that the 'lollypop man' was performing this role for the first time."