Torrential rain marred the first qualifying session of the 2013 Formula 1 world championship season in Melbourne, forcing race director Charlie Whiting to postpone the crucial session to 11am (local time) on Sunday, grand prix race day morning – a first for Formula 1.
From the outset action was delayed for half an hour, before the cars were unleashed on to a very wet Albert Park circuit for Q1. Although everyone started the session on full wets, for a brief window of about 10 minutes the track got quicker and the top times were set with cars on intermediates before the session was brought to an end – and with it proceedings on the day.
Conditions were such that many drivers were caught out in what turned out to be a dramatic 20 minutes for all concerned. The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, Paul di Resta, Pastor Maldonado had big moments, while rookies Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) and Caterham pair Charles Pic and Guido van der Garde damaging their cars during metal bending incidents.
Hardly a lap into the session and Van der Garde’s Caterham limped back to the pits without a front wing.
A few minutes later and Hamilton got it wrong exiting Turn 2, tagged the tyre wall before almost beaching his Mercedes in the mud. Quick thinking and reverse gear saved the 2008 world champion some serious blushes.
Ten minutes into the session Felipe Massa had a big moment in Turn 11, the Ferrari slapping the wall twice, somehow he manged to keep it in the right direction, but he too limped back to the pits in what is obviously a pretty tough F138.
Webber, Di Resta and Maldonado were also caught out in Turn 11 but escaped without damage as they skimmed over the manicured grass verge.
By now the track was good for intermediates, with Jenson Button making the call first and immediately going top of the timing screens.
The rest followed suit and amid a flurry of on track action it was Nico Rosberg who ended up fastest of all.
But as Q1 came to an end, first Charles Pic emerged without a front wing and then Gutierrez in the Sauber, became yet another victim of Turn 11, clouted the wall heftily before bouncing back into the middle of the track, where he stopped facing the wrong direction. Game over.
Thereafter delay upon delay, with rain pelting down persistently, race control decided to postpone Q2 and Q3 until Sunday morning at 11:00 am Melbourne time, which translates to midnight GMT.
Final word to Whiting who said race control made the decision to postpone to “put everyone out of their misery.”
Timing screen at the end of Melbourne Qualifying Q1: