Melbourne qualifying delayed to Sunday by rain, wind, darkness

With rain continuously falling between the final practice at Albert Park and leaving standing water on the circuit, the Q2 and Q3 qualifying sessions for the 2013 Australian Grand Prix has been delayed until 11am local time .

Race Control delayed the session that was to have begun at 5pm local time three separate times at ten minute intervals, finally beginning Q1 a half hour late. The medical car lapped looking for the standing water that could cause hydroplaning even as Australian fans frolicked in the rain. Q1 began a half hour late and continued for its typical twenty minutes. After it ended, Race Control delayed Q1 by ten minutes, then another twenty, apparently as a heavy shower that could disrupt Q2 was on its way to the track. Then, too, marshals required extra time to clear the debris from Q1. Soon enough, another twenty minutes were added to the delay tally. Meanwhile, everyone in the paddock and beyond scratched their heads as to the regulatory requirements for qualifying as the light continued to darken.

As drivers strapped in to begin Q2, Race Control announced that Q2 and Q3 would be delayed until 11am local time (8pm EST), with the race to start at the scheduled 5pm local time. Q1 ran as follows:

By the end of the thirty minutes, Hamilton and Rosberg were waiting for the green light at the end of pit lane. Quickly, all drivers but Massa and the Force Indias were onto the circuit. Most tiptoed through the conditions, all lining up for some air free of spray. Van der Garde rued his first F1 weekend, damaging the front wing and getting it caught up under the nose of his Caterham. Moments later, Hamilton pulled off to the side. He backed up to get clear of the grass after having lost it through the exit of Turn 1 and bumping his rear wing into the tyre barrier. He carried on without returning to the garage, but the team soon called him in, a message he seemed to ignore. van der Garde soon returned to the track after a front wing removal and change.

Halfway through the session, Rosberg (1:46.539) led Vergne, Vettel, Grosjean, Alonso, Gutierrez, di Resta, Massa, Hulkenberg, and Hamilton the top ten. Massa pitted with his own damaged front wing, spinning dramatically through Turn 10. Webber took a trip across the grass but continued on apparently undamaged. He had yet to set a time, nor had Bianchi or Chilton. Hamilton soon pipped up to third fastest as more drivers set times. Vergne had taken fastest from Rosberg as Mercedes told the latter to stop pushing and save his tyres.

With eight minutes remaining, van der Garde, Bottas, Pic, Maldonado, Chilton, and Bianchi were in the knockout zone, but Vettel (1:46.188) had just posted the fastest time of the session. Perez added his name to the list of spinners, barely keeping his car from sliding off onto the grass. Button and di Resta switched to inters, the first to do so, with just less than seven minutes to go. Maldonado had his own massive slide across the grass, but his Williams seemed unhurt.

Many drivers dove into the pits for inters with five to go, with Vettel still leading Vergne, as Ricciardo, Rosberg, and Raikkonen led the session. Van der Garde, Bottas, Pic, Maldonado, Bianchi, and Chilton all sat in the knockout zone. Button went fastest, then Massa slotted into second fastest, with the former a second faster than Vettel’s wet tyre time. Alonso was the next to go fastest, but the real worry came for those at the slow end of the field. As the seconds ticked down, Pic, then Gutierrez crashed and lost front wings. The former continued on, but the latter sat nearly sideways in the middle of the track. In the end, Rosberg (1:43.380) led Alonso, Grosjean, Perez, Webber, Massa, Vettel, Button, Vergne, and Raikkonen as the fastest ten.


Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Pastor Maldonado
18. Esteban Gutierrez
19. Jules Bianchi
20. Max Chilton
21. Giedo van der Garde
22. Charles Pic

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