Mother Nature threw a curveball at Formula One teams during qualifying for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix as nasty weather conditions first delayed, then hindered, and finally caused postponement of the final two qualifying sessions at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne.
Unyielding rains, strong winds, and dwindling daylight combined to delay qualifying until Sunday morning, just six hours before the scheduled start of the race.
Mostly dry conditions earlier in the day allowed Lotus’ Romain Grosjean to turn the fastest lap in Saturday’s practice (P3). The first qualifying session (Q1) later that afternoon was delayed because, in addition to the obvious safety concerns caused by a loss of traction on a wet racetrack, workers had to remove a buildup of leaves in various track locations that could have potentially wrecked havoc on the cars’ 2.4 liter, V-8 engines, which require consistent airflow through side pod-encased radiators.
All cars took to the circuit for Q1 on full wet rubber with the conservative strategy of staying on the track long enough to turn a hot lap good enough to advance to Q2. Several drivers experienced off-track excursions during the 20-minute session, including Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil. With roughly five minutes left in the session, a few teams, including McLaren and Lotus, changed to intermediate (wet) tires in a decision that placed Sergio Perez and Grosjean higher on the timesheets.
At the end of Q1, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, and Grosjean sat atop the leader board going into Q2.
Eliminated from further qualifying and settling for a back-of-the-grid start were Pastor Maldonado, Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic and Max Chilton. As anticipated, both backmarker teams, Marussia and Caterham, did not advance, although Marussia's Bianchi appeared pleased about outqualifying Caterham, their main rival for constructors' points money this season.
After several delays that added up to a one-hour wait, FIA race director Charlie Whiting made the call to postpone the balance of qualifying to Sunday as a lack of available daylight ultimately sealed the deal.
Qualifying is scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. local time, Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT.