The 2013 Formula 1 world championship will have to wait a bit longer to complete the first qualifying session of the season, after heavy rain forced the FIA to postpone the final two parts of Saturday's session to Sunday morning.
Drivers and teams had managed to complete the third and final free practice session earlier in the day and were a third of the way through qualifying - having completed Q1 - but organisers eventually ruled the weather conditions and fading light made for unsafe driving conditions, meaning Q2 and Q3 will start early on Sunday morning, with the race to follow immediately afterwards.
Where to Watch Qualifying Live
The qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix will start at 12am GMT. Live coverage will be available on the Live Timing section of the sport's official Web site.
The 2013 Australian Formula 1 race will start at 6am GMT. Live coverage will be available (from 4.30am GMT) on Sky Sports F1 and the Live Timing section of the sport's official Web site.
Saturday Free Practice
The final free practice session was topped by Lotus-Renault's Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman took advantage of the poor weather conditions and the fact the traditional front-runners chose to not risk their cars in the rain to lap Albert Park in 1:26.929. The Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were second and third, only 0.071s and 0.312s behind the Lotus.
The Italian outfit started last season very poorly and that eventually cost Alonso and the Maranello team both the drivers' and the constructors' titles. Times from pre-season testing seemed to indicate they would be a lot closer to the pace-setting Red Bull Racing team this year. And early times from the first practice session at Albert Park, on Friday, confirmed that guess.
However, both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber unveiled the true pace of their car in the second session, easily topping the sheets with 1:25.908 and 1:26.172 respectively. The Milton Keynes-based side were over half a second faster than Alonso's best in that session, meaning Ferrari may still have work to do to catch the Red Bull.
Red Bull's dry pace has left most of the usual suspects struggling, again. The McLarens of Jenson Button and new driver Sergio Perez were particularly poor on Friday, with the best time of the day Button's 1:28.294 - 2.386s off Vettel.
The third practice session was no better, with even the rain not helping the team from Woking. Button was again the fastest but was down in 17th, over six seconds off Grosjean.
The surprise winners in the early practice session were Lotus, Force India-Mercedes and Toro Rosso, all of whose drivers made the top eight. Grosjean's team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, was fifth. The Force India drivers - Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil - were fourth and eighth respectively and Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were sixth and seventh. The Sauber duo of Nico Hulkenberg and rookie Esteban Guttierez rounded out the top ten.
The first third of qualifying was wet, following a heavy downpour before the start of Q1. In fact, the session was delayed three times, by 10 minutes each time. And when it did finally start, spins for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, Massa, Perez and Webber highlighted the treacherous conditions.
On track, though, the conditions seemed to improve as the session wore on, leading to a frantic final few minutes as drivers sought to get banker laps in. Hamilton's team mate, Nico Rosberg was fastest initially but soon had Vettel and Alonso for company, as the times tumbled.
After a very scrappy few minutes, Rosberg finished Q1 on top, with a time of 1:43.180. Alonso was second but over half a second behind. Grosjean continued his fine form from the morning with 1:44.284 for third place. Perez and Webber rounded out the top five, with the big guns - Ferrari's Massa and Vettel leading Williams' Pastor Maldonado and Hamilton for the top ten places.
Of course, these are only provisional places and will certainly change as the second and third sessions of qualifying play out. However, the final five places - the drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 - will start in those positions.
Weather Forecast for Qualifying and Race
The bad news is rain is forecast all through Sunday. The final two-thirds of Saturday's qualifying session start at 11am (local time) and up to 0.4mm of rain is expected at Albert Park then. The good news is there is some sunshine expected in the evening, when the race starts at 5pm (local time). Rainfall estimates for the period are minimal.
Air temperatures all through the day are not expected to cross the 20C mark, with the high of 17C expected in between qualifying and the race. There will be a reasonably strong wind though, with speeds up to 20km/h expected in the afternoon.
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