"The finish line sensor suffered a mechanical failure in the form of a damaged cable," a media statement issued on Sunday confirmed.
"Standard procedures were followed and the back-up sensor used. Once the verification procedures were complete the full results were published. At no time was any timing data lost," the statement added.
The live 'world feed' of the television broadcast captured the confusion in parc ferme as eventual pole sitter Fernando Alonso and his rivals tried to figure out the result, and even Bernie Ecclestone stepped in to allay their fears that the result had been lost.
"Bernie came along and told us that the times would be back up soon and not to worry," said Williams' Nico Rosberg, who at one point was jubilant as it seemed he had qualified on the front row.
After the belated confirmation spoiled his celebrations and he realized he was in fact fifth, Rosberg wryly remarked: "The high-tech world of F1, eh?"