Before the decision was taken to postpone qualifying until Sunday morning, Nico Rosberg set the quickest time of the session in the wet conditions. The Mercedes driver posted a best time of 1:43.380 on the intermediate tires as a drying line began to emerge towards the end of the session.
Following a thirty minute delay, Mercedes lined up at the end of the pit lane in order to avoid the rush, and this move paid off as Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton both set good times on the wet tires. Despite battling a congested track, many of the drivers went close to the Silver Arrows’ times, with Vettel, Vergne and Alonso all vying for top spot during the early part of the session.
Although the conditions were catching many of the drivers out, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta opted to move onto the intermediates, and once Button had gone quickest the rest of the field followed suit to fit the blue-ringed tires.
It was a question of being the last man to take the chequered flag on a drying line. Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was caught out and subsequently eliminated. The final flurry of times failed to see much change due to a yellow flag caused by Esteban Gutierrez who had hit the wall, with the Mexican driver also dropping out in Q1. Marussia managed to stay out late and outqualify closest rivals Caterham, and the yellow flags may have hindered their final efforts.
Edging through were Valtteri Bottas and Adrian Sutil, both of whom will be pleased to have a shot at making Q3 tomorrow.
Qualifying will resume tomorrow morning in Melbourne, with six drivers being eliminated in Q2 before the top ten shootout for pole position.
Diaz (right) is another prototype class veteran, with recent PC experience (8Star Motorsports and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) added to his LMP2 days with Fernandez Racing.
All three of them also competed in Champ Car World Series races in Mexico City, with Gonzalez and Diaz part of a six-Mexican driver entry in the 2003 race (Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin).
Ricardo Gonzalez co-drives the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the WEC.
Around two-thirds of the Formula E grid also race in the WEC, with the two championships preventing clashes so that drivers do not have to pick between them. As a result, it seems inevitable that one of the races will have to change date.
Jolyon Palmer felt “gutted” after a likely top-10 finish in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was lost following a spin in the closing stages, costing him his first Formula 1 points.
2014 GP2 champion Palmer joined Renault for its return to F1 as a constructor in 2016, but arrived in Hungary without a point to his name from the opening 10 races of the season.
Palmer was left disappointed on Saturday after a red flag knocked him out of qualifying at the first hurdle, but a long first stint brought him into contention for points.
Palmer moved into the top 10 after jumping Nico Hulkenberg in the pits, only for Renault’s hard work to be undone when he spun off at Turn 4, losing three positions in the process.
The Briton was ultimately classified 12th after Esteban Gutierrez’s time penalty, extending his points drought to 11 races.
“I’m gutted as my first points in Formula 1 were there for the taking,” Palmer said.
“The car was good and I was driving well within myself in P10. I turned in the same as normal at turn four – I wasn’t hanging everything out and I was looking after the tires – but for some reason I lost the car in a massive snap.
“I need to look at everything with my engineers to see if there is anything we could have done to prevent it.
“I was running tenth, we had completed all our pit stops, we had good pace relative to those ahead and behind so it looks like we’ve made a real step forward this weekend.
“It was the best drive of my career today and just one small spin took away those points.
“I’m gutted today but I’ll be fighting to get in the same position or better in Hockenheim.”