Australian GP qualifying delayed by heavy rain

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Melbourne
Highlights of abandoned qualifying

Qualifying at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix has been delayed until Sunday morning in Melbourne following heavy rain.

Only the first knock-out part of qualifying was run at Albert Park as race director Charlie Whiting decided conditions were too dangerous for the drivers to continue.

When the decision was made at 18:50 local time, the light was also fading.

Australian Grand Prix - Sunday forecast

The final two parts will now be run at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg set the pace in the first session from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Lotus's Romain Grosjean.

Williams driver Pastor Maldonado and Sauber's rookie Esteban Gutierrez were the two drivers to be knocked out in the first part of qualifying, along with the Marussias and Caterhams.

The Marussias out-qualified both Caterhams and Frenchman Jules Bianchi continued the good impression he has made since being taken on by Caterham at the final pre-season test.

Bianchi was 0.767 seconds quicker than his team-mate Max Chilton.

Lewis Hamilton had a narrow escape when he spun at Turn Two and his Mercedes initially appeared to be beached on the edge of the track - the rear wheels spinning uselessly as he tried to rejoin.

But the Briton was able to reverse back onto the circuit and he ended up 10th fastest despite a damaged rear-wing endplate.

McLaren's Sergio Perez was fourth fastest, ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Jenson Button.

"When it gets too wet for these tyres it doesn't matter what speed you drive around, you will aquaplane, that is it," said Button. "The tyre cannot take a certain amount of water.

Australian GP: F1 drivers react to Melbourne rain delay

"Especially when there is a river running across the circuit you don't know where it is when you arrive. When you hit a river you are completely out of control, you might as well close your eyes and take your hand off the steering wheel because it does what it wants.

"That's not what F1 is about. It is about a guy trying to tame a 750bhp F1 car. The fans will get a much better show than they would have [had] if we'd tried to run in these conditions because we'd all be piled up at Turn One."

The race stewards could have chosen to declare the grid on the results of first qualifying, among other choices, but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: "It would be unfair to do that because you navigate your way through that first session.

"It's not about setting purple [fastest] sectors; it's about surviving it. They have made the right call."

Qualifying top ten (session 1)

1. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 1:43.380

2. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari - 1:43.850

3. Romain Grosjean - Lotus - 1:44.284

4. Sergio Perez - McLaren - 1:44.300

5. Mark Webber - Red Bull - 1:44.472

6. Felipe Massa - Ferrari - 1:44.635

7. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull - 1:44.657

8. Jenson Button - McLaren - 1:44.688

9. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso - 1:44.871

10. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 1:45.456

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