Qualifying in Australia postponed until Sunday
After a pre-season spent grappling with European winter, F1 on Saturday faced a washout in Melbourne.
Although the southern city has only just emerged from a heat wave, the decisive Q2 and Q3 segments of qualifying had to be delayed until Sunday morning, as cars slipped, slid and crashed while 2013 struggled to get out of first gear.
"You could say that 30 years ago they probably would have raced in these conditions, but safety has come a long way in terms of the circuits and the way that we view safety," said McLaren's Jenson Button.
It means the grid will only now be decided after the session resumes at 11am on Sunday, just six hours before the world championship begins in the twilight timeslot, 5pm.
"We'll have to follow a really tight schedule tomorrow, including a very short turnaround between qualifying and race, and that'll be tough for everyone," added Button's teammate, Sergio Perez.
The possibility of More rain - albeit probably lighter than Saturday's - is forecast for Sunday.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner backed the FIA's decision to delay qualifying in the fading daylight.
"Hopefully this weather will blow through tonight and we'll be back with better conditions in the morning," he said.
The weather appeared to be at its worst after a downpour before the start of Q1, forcing three delays of 10 minutes before finally Lewis Hamilton led the wet-shod field out. Hamilton’s fastest time was quickly eclipsed by Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, and then the Briton spun and lightly damaged his car’s rear wing.
Rosberg continued to set the pace, fighting with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, as conditions improved steadily.
|Rosberg fastest in Q1 in the rain|
McLaren’s Jenson Button was the first to switch to intermediate Pirellis, with five minutes to go, and quickly went fastest, but was soon pushed down by Alonso and then Rosberg, who eventually set the best lap of the scrappy session with 1m 43.380s.
Many drivers had adventures, among them Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who took off his front wing when he spun and hit a wall, Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Force India’s Paul di Resta who went grass cutting, and McLaren’s Sergio Perez who got away with a big spin. Both Caterham racers - Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic - lost a front wing apiece, Esteban Gutierrez, who did likewise in his Sauber after putting a rear wheel over a wet curb, and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado who went off-roading and nearly took out an unsuspecting seagull.
Maldonado was the first faller, qualifying 17th in 1m 47.614s, followed by Gutierrez on 1m 47.776s, Jules Bianchi with a solid 1m 48.147s for Marussia and his team mate Max Chilton, who looked good with 1m 48.909s. Van der Garde had another spin, this time without damage, and didn’t better 1m 49.519s, while Caterham team mate Pic was last on 1m 50.626s.
As the rain returned there was another 10 minute delay before the start of Q2, which was extended until 1830 hours local time. Then until 1850. Sunset was due at 1938 and eventually, as 1850 came and went, the FIA decided the only recourse was to postpone Q2 and Q3 until Sunday morning, when they will be run, conditions allowing.
The last time this happened was in Suzuka in 2010, when the whole of qualifying was delayed from Saturday to Sunday. The Melbourne race will still start, as expected, at 1700 hours local time on Sunday afternoon.