Tomas Scheckter, driving for the South African A1 Grand Prix team had to be content with 16th place on the grid for Sunday's opening sprint race at Estoril in Portugal.
Brazil's Nelson Piquet Jr will start from pole position for the second time in three races ahead of Switzerland's Neel Jani and France's Alexandre Premat.
The Czech Republic's Tomas Enge will share the second row of the grid with Jani, while the third row will be made up of Jos Verstappen of Team Netherlands and the host country's Alvaro Parente.
The top 10 is made up of Canada (Sean McIntosh), Malaysia (Fairuz Fauzy), Indonesia (Ananda Mikola) and Great Britain (Robbie Kerr).
Qualifying for an A1 Grand Prix requires each driver to record a single flying lap in at least two of four 15-minute official qualifying sessions.
The aggregate of the two best times determines the grid position for the 18-lap sprint race. This is followed by a 36-lap feature race with a compulsory pit stop to change all four tyres.
The starting order for the feature race is determined by the finishing order of the sprint race.
Scheckter was happy to have improved on his grid position of 23 at Lausitz in Germany two weeks ago, but had hoped for a better result today.
"We have made good progress since the last race and, after switching engines with our spare car, which we were able to use for the first time this weekend, we were looking for a starting position in the top 10.
"We seem to have our sums worked out for wet weather conditions, where we were very strong in yesterday's official practice sessions, but as the track becomes dry we drop off the pace. We're working on our set-up and looking at all our options. The folk back home can be assured of our very best efforts to represent them well.
"With all the pit stops and yellow flag caution periods we have in IndyCar, I'm used to the challenge of driving through the field from my IndyCar experience and tomorrow's rolling start for the sprint presents excellent opportunities for making up a few places on the first lap," Scheckter said.
Sunday's races will be televised live by SABC3 from 14:30.