Michael Schumacher believes it would have been possible for him to go into Q3 at Suzuka had he not found Lewis Hamilton in front during his flying lap.
The seven-time World Champion, who will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the year, qualified in 13th position, but will be sent to the back of the grid following the penalty he was given in Singapore for crashing into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso.
Schumacher admitted he did not expect a great result given the nature of the circuit, but he did feel it was possible to do better.
"It was a shame that we couldn't do more today, after things hadn't looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn't get the performance together," said Schumacher. "Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn't necessarily expect to look in great shape here.
"Perhaps I could have made it through to Q3, because the data showed that I lost two tenths in Turn 11 [the hairpin] because of traffic, but I wasn't quite sure what Hamilton was doing ahead of me.
"I saved a lot of tire sets and in that respect got the maximum out of the situation. Now we need to wait and see what happens tomorrow. I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result, starting from the back of the grid."
Teammate Nico Rosberg completed a poor day for Mercedes by qualifying in 15th position, but the German is hopeful of making up positions in the race.
"It's been a difficult weekend for us," he said. "Qualifying in 15th place is not where we want to be although I will gain some places due to grid penalties.
"The times were so close today and it's disappointing that we couldn't make it through to Q3. Our pace felt better on high fuel, so hopefully this will work out well in the race and I can gain positions."