Jenson Button blamed what he described as "massive oversteer" for missing the chance to go into Q3 in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver qualified down in 14th position, two places behind rookie teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, despite finishing as third quickest in Friday's second practice.
While Button admits he never expected to be able to match that performance, he reckons Q3 was possible.
"I don't think that pace was really going to be there today, one because I think others turn up their engines from Friday to Saturday, but we definitely expected to be closer to Q3," said Button.
"I think if the balance was like it was in Q1 there was a chance of being in Q3. We were very close to it there."
Button said he had been feeling confident with the car until the end of Q2 when, for reasons he could not understand, the balance switched completely.
"The car has been really good all weekend," he added.
"I've had a reasonable balance, I was mostly struggling with a bit of understeer but was quite happy with it and in my last run for no reason at all it was completely the opposite, massive oversteer.
"I don't know if it was the circuit or what."