The decisive parts of Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix has been postponed until tomorrow morning at 11am Melbourne time (midnight UK time) after heavy rain caused major delays and brought the session to an end following the first phase of qualifying.
It’s an unusual move by the race stewards, but not unprecedented. Qualifying was delayed in the same way at Suzuka twice in the last decade, the last time in 2010. THe forecast is for partly cloudy, and temperatures of 18 degrees.
Having already been delayed by twenty minutes, Q1 got underway in very wet conditions and claimed a number of victims before the session was over, which ended with Nico Rosberg as the pace setter. Both Caterhams and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari lost a front wing, while Lewis Hamilton slid into the barriers but recovered.
The remainder of qualifying will now be run at 11:00am local time on Sunday morning, with the race beginning at 5:00pm.
Q1 saw all the cars take the extreme wet tyre initially, with the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg setting the first competitive times. However, Hamilton hit troubles at the beginning of his second lap when he spun at the exit of Turn 1 and damaged his rear wing. The Briton was able to continue and make his way in to tomorrow’s second phase.
There was a number of cars that took an excursion in to the Melbourne park, including Felipe Massa who suffered a fairly heavy collision with a barrier. Luckily for him the impact was directly frontal and meant that he only lost a front-wing and did not suffer any further suspension damage.
At the halfway point of Q1 the rain began to ease and the track conditions allowed for intermediate tyres. From that point times rapidly fell with the top spot being swapped between Jenson Button and then Fernando Alonso before Rosberg took the top spot in the final moments.
The second session was repeatedly delayed as the heavy rain returned and Charlie Whiting eventually made the decision to delay the remaining sessions until Sunday morning. With the Australian GP having a late start in order to make it European friendly there was insufficient lighting to further delay the session.
The only drivers’ to know where they will be starting the Grand Prix from is those that found themselves in the drop-zone at the climax of Q1. Pastor Maldonado complained that the Williams was ‘undriveable’, and he will begin the race in 17th place.
Behind him is Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, the rookie crashing at the same point as Massa whilst he was on a quicker lap.
The final two rows of the grid are to be filled by the Marussia and Caterham pairings, with Marussia claiming the bragging rights. Both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton were able to bring their cars home safely, whilst the same could not be said for Giedo Van Der Garde and Charles Pic. They each lost a front-wing during the twenty minute session and will start alongside each other on the final row of the grid.