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Qualy postponed until Sunday morning

Saturday 16th March 2013

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Qualy postponed until Sunday morning

Qualy postponed until Sunday morning

The final two qualifying segments for the Australian GP will take place on Sunday morning due to heavy rain at the track.

The all-important Saturday afternoon session got off to a delayed start as the rain bucketed down on the Albert Park circuit.

After 30 minutes of delays, Q1 got underway with several slips, slides and accidents. The session ended with Esteban Gutierrez and Charles Pic in the walls while Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso were quickest.

As such Q2 was delayed until, after 50 minutes, Race Control announced that the stewards had decided to postpone Q2 and Q3 until Sunday morning.

The two sessions will now begin at 11am local time (midnight GMT).

Qualifying Report
In the run up to the Australian Grand Prix Melbourne enjoyed a record run of days above 30C, but just as the world's cameras focused in on Albert Park for Saturday qualifying, the rains came down, particularly strongly in the ten minutes before scheduled start time at 5pm.

FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting took the decision to delay and allow some of the standing water to be cleared off the circuit, with the ambient then at 18C and the track at a soaking wet 18C also. The ten minute delay was then followed by another ten minute delay, with Q1 scheduled to get under way at 5.20pm local time.

Qualifying 1
When the time came, it was a question of fuelling up the cars for 20 minutes of running and stick full wet tyres on. And beware of the white lines - of which there are many in Albert Park. By that time the temperatures were both at 17C. At the back of everyone's mind was the light situation. During a normal, sunny grand prix the sun is close to setting when the race finishes around 6.45pm and so on a gloomy wet day, Qualifying wouldn't finish till 6.20pm.

The two Mercedes were eager to get out and get on with it and were first down pitlane to start the 2013 season, mindful that if the rain suddenly started to intensify again, these would be the best conditions.

Nico Rosberg didn't disappoint and set a benchmark time of 1:48.020. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton ran wide at Turn 3 and put in a slower lap. While Giedo van der Garde marked his debut for Caterham by losing a front wing, Hamilton spun his car onto the grass, nudging his rear wing against a barrier. For quite a few seconds it looked as though Lewis was beached and the official timing screens registered him with a STOP, but he managed to engage reverse gear and limp back to the pits for a damage assessment.

At the top of the timesheets, it was those cars who could get heat into the tyres. It was also important to get track position and improve vision and so there were many battles fought for track position with cars running three abreast down the main straight to sort out the running order.

Nico Rosberg improved by 1.5 seconds to take P1 down to 1:46.539 as Felipe Massa spun his car at Turn 12, losing a front wing in the process. Sergio Perez also spun but caught the McLaren without hitting a hard surface. He and Jenson Button weren't fairing well and were down in 14th and 16th position after the early laps - and not improving.

However Sauber rookie Estaban Gutierez was doing phenomenally well, up into P5 and looking to go through to Q2. It was Jenson Button who dived into the pitlanes first for inters as the circuit dried out - and that move changed the whole complexion of Q1. He was followed by the two Force Indias, Massa and then Alonso.

Vettel, still on wets, had nudged the P1 time down to 1:46.188, while Pastor Maldonado had a high speed grass excursion with his troublesome Williams. The affects of changing to inters was soon seen on the timesheets as Button leapt from P15 to P1 with a 1:45.192, Felipe Massa, also now on inters, tucked in behind in P2, and then Fernando Alonso took P1.

By the time that Button was setting purple sectors the rest of the field had realised it was inters time, but the session was entering its last few minutes. Alonso had claimed P1 and then Nico Rosberg took it back with a 1:43.380. Good early times set on full wets were now meaningless in the typical 'drying track scramble'. Except...the track had stopped drying and it was beginning to rain again.

Into the last two minutes and the danger positions were: 16.Perez, 17.Van der Garde, 18.Bottas, 19.Pic, 20.Maldonado, 21.Bianchi, 22.Chilton.

Perez jumped to P3, Bottas, Chilton and Bianchi all improved, but then Charles Pic spun and lost the second Caterham front wing of the session and like Massa, Gutierrez spun at Turn 12 ending up with the car stopped on the track and bringing out double waved yellows. This meant that it would be difficult for cars to improve in the long final sector.

With six cars eliminated from Q1 out went: 17.Maldonado, 18.Gutierrez, 19.Bianchi, 20.Chilton, 21.Van der Garde, 22.Pic.

Gutierrez had so nearly got a sensational qualifying result, but ended up with a rookie spin, Bottas edged out his Williams team-mate Maldonado. Bianchi showed the benefit of Friday running for Force India and outpacing Chilton, but both Marussias were in front of the Caterhams. Luckiest man of all was the Mercedes new boy, Lewis Hamilton, who looked like he might have had the most embarrassing Q1 of all.

Race Control announced a delay to the start of Q2 which would commence at 6.10pm local time. This was then extended to 6.30pm and then 6.50pm (when the Grand Prix was usually finishing). Then at 6.45pm - even though engines were being fired up in the pitlane - it was announced that the rest of qualifying would be run on Sunday morning at 11.00am.

There had been enough incident in Q1 to fill a highlights programme, but with the race order from Q1 being: 1.Rosberg, 2.Alonso, 3.Grosjean, 4.Perez, 5.Webber, 6.Massa, 7.Vettel, 8.Button - there were many who thought that was already the perfect starting grid.

FH

Times
01. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:43.380
02. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:43.850 +0.470
03. Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 1:44.284 +0.904
04. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.300 +0.920
05. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:44.472 +1.092
06. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:44.635s +1.255
07. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:44.657 +1.277
08. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.688 +1.308
09. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:44.871 +1.491
10. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.456 +2.076
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1:45.545 +2.165
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:45.601 +2.221
13. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.930 +2.550
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:46.450 +3.070
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:47.328 +3.948
16. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:47.330 +3.950
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:47.614 +4.234
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:47.776 +4.396
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.147 +4.767
20. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.909 +5.529
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:49.519 +6.139
22. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:50.626 +7.246

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