Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have locked out an all-Red Bull Renault front row for the Rolex Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2013 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
After qualifying sessions two and three were delayed due to rain during the original Saturday session, they resumed early Sunday morning. More wet conditions greeted runners in Q2, with intermediate tires from Pirelli the option of choice at least to start. The track dried once Q3 had gotten underway.
Times began in the 1 minute, 40 second range around the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne but quickly dipped into the 1:30s by the end of the session.
Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg all had their turn at the top of the timesheets. Those failing to advance into the final Q3 shootout were the two Toro Rossos (Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo), Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber, Adrian Sutil’s Force India, Sergio Perez’s McLaren and Valtteri Bottas’ Williams.
While most drivers went out once the green flag flew in Q3, Jenson Button (McLaren) and Paul di Resta (Force India) waited in the garage.
Rosberg was first to set the top mark at a 1:33.6, which was then bettered by Mercedes teammate Hamilton. Despite a serious moment in the final two corners, Vettel then topped them both as the first driver into the 1:32 range.
With four minutes remaining the track had dried enough to where teams could run on dry weather tires. Super softs were the option of choice after the inters and immediately produced improved times as could be expected.
Hamilton got down to a 1:29.1 to take the provisional top mark, later bettered by Vettel with just 23 seconds left in the session for the eventual pole time of 1:27.407, some 1.5 seconds clear of the field at the time. Webber was next, also in the 1:27s.
Hamilton got down to a 1:28.0, good enough for third on his Mercedes debut, ahead of Massa and Alonso in the two Ferraris.
Rosberg, the two Lotus Renaults (Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean), di Resta and Button completed the top 10. Raikkonen had a small moment in the pits when he drove over a jack while exiting, but the session otherwise ran without incident.
The lights go out for the opening round of the 2013 Formula 1 season at 2:00 a.m. EDT, with live coverage of the race beginning half an hour earlier on the NBC Sports Network at 1:30 a.m. Qualifying will be shown one hour earlier at 12:30 a.m.