Michael Schumacher suggests the team aren't ready to win a championship yet, but is somewhat optimistic: "There is a good possibility we could be on the podium. I am hopeful and that's what we expect from the first race."
A few teams had mechanical issues this morning. Williams had some gearbox trouble one Barrichello's car, whilst Maldonado ran off track and got beached in the gravel.
Pérez had to bring his Sauber back to the garage at a crawl due to a loss of power.
Liuzzi's HRT was only out on track for a couple of corners before a problem occured. Tonio reported that he touched the breaks and the gearbox and engine failed.
Interview with Paul Hembery, director of motorsport at Pirelli: "Eight months of testing and now we're really here finally. We just want to get on with it.
"I guess the input was to try and create a Canada type scenario, where there were a lot of tyres being changed, a lot of strategy involved. The easy thing to do is over-exaggerate and do a tyre that lasts 10 laps and you don't have to worry about it. To get a tyre that lasts 20 or 30 laps is actually very difficult."
Paul Hembery on who told them to make softer tyres: "No, not the FIA, they write the rules. It was the teams, and Mr E as well, he wants a show."
Interview with Mark Webber: "We want to put it up towards the front of the grid there somewhere. We don't think everyone was showing their true colours in the session this morning. Personally, myself, I want to be on the front row."
Webber on the amount of work drivers have to do in the cockpit: "It's just a question of how we far go, obviously. I don't think we want to go too far. I think we've reached the limit now. A lot of it is good, the rear wing, we'll see how it goes in the races, but the KERS is pretty much invisible, for you guys at home. It's just there for us."
Comment from Paul at the track: Lotus keep starting and reving engines. HRT folk looking glum
Ted Kravitz gives us a fact - Rubens Barrichello has taken part in 36% of all Grand Prix races... ever. Madness!
Tweet from @OfficialSF1Team: 3 sets of soft (yellow) and 3 sets of hard (silver) is all you get for gambling in quali and race!! http://yfrog.com/gyrj2dgj
Interview with Paul di Resta: "I think the main thing is to enjoy the experience, regular points finishes is the aim. Certainly getting on the podium would be a great result for the team."
More from Paul: "Definitely nervous, big day today. It's been a challenge this weekend getting up to speed. Some runs have been comfortable, some not, but now it's time to up our game a little bit.
You can't base yourself on your teammate. I've set out to do the best job. I'm just trying to build myself up slowly and make sure I'm progressing but not taking too many steps forward to trip up too quickly.
It's so busy on and off track, you haven't had much time. The tyres are working a bit different again, and it's amazing how much something like putting a little bit of fuel in a car changes everything."
Tweet from @sarahholtf1: White clouds blanket Albert Park, the occasional sound of helicopters & trams passing by - less than half an hour til the cars go out #bbcf1
|(data from Williams F1)|
|Fuel laptime penalty||0.4s/10kg|
|Pit lane loss||28s|
|Pit lane length||280m|
For reference, this time last year, Sebastian Vettel took pole position with a 1:23.919.
When Fernando Alonso was asked if the allowance of team orders would be helpful for Ferrari, he said: "Useful for everyone." You can't catch him out.
15 minutes to go until qualifying gets underway.
Interview with Jenson Button: "We've got many different things that could play a big part here, so never say never. Since 2002, every pole man has gone into the first corner first. If you're on pole, this is a good circuit for you. If you're not on pole, the first corner is pretty mad."
JB: "With these Pirelli tyres, if you flat-spot a tyre, that screws it, it's gone."
Tweet from @TheFifthDriver: We're sitting down on the pitwall ready for Q1. Care to join us? http://mclaren.com/formula1
Christian Horner: "It looks about a second difference, we'll do a run on the hard, we'll leave ourselves enough time if we need to do a second one. It's the first qualifying of the year, we don't want to miss anything, so we'll do a run and see where we are after that.
"Seb had a good final practice, Mark's run was compromised by traffic. They're always pretty close so I expect that to be the same this afternoon."
Tweet from @smnasarudin (deputy team principal at Lotus): Power steering is an issue & we losing 2 seconds due to temp in tyres. Let's hope for a miracle for qualifying. Q2 is a possibility! 30mins
Drivers are putting their helmets on and getting themselves ready. Vettel and Alonso both look super-serious - in the zone.
Live data running from Mercedes: http://www3.mercedes-gp.com/en/#/category/home/
Qualifying session 1 begins.
20 minutes of Q1 begins with Petrov out of the pitlane first.
D'Ambrosio follows, and Trulli close behind.
Paul di Resta heads out for his first F1 qualifying - two weeks later than planned.
The first times are coming in now, Petrov temporarily at the top with a 1:29.463.
Both Liuzzi and Karthikeyan have taken their HRT cars out on track - already they are doing better than this morning.
Comment from Alex Andronov: Ted saying Rubens had to change his gear box. But before the point where he would have to have a penalty
Heidfeld ran off track, kicking up a bit of gravel but continues on no problems.
Then he puts his Renault on top, just to prove a point: 1:28.613.
The bottom seven cars will be kicked out of qualifying, but at the moment we only have 11 times.
Vettel puts in a 1:26.657 to jump straight to the top of the timesheets. About two seconds off his pace this morning.
Webber is just 5 hundredths behind his teammate, whilst Hamilton in third is more than half a second down.
The HRT cars are just about 10 seconds off the pace. That's an improvement.
Schumacher has started his flying lap, as Alonso goes third, and Vettel improves on his pace.
Webber goes even faster with a 1:25.900.
Hamilton moves up to P1, a 1:25.384.
Halfway through this session and five cars are still without a time.
Alguersuari, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Pérez and Buemi.
Schumacher jumped up to 4th on his first flying lap.
Vettel back to P1, just about a tenth aster.
Alguersuari improves to 6th position.
Tweet from @MyTeamLotus: 7 mins left. Run 2 - HK 14th, JT 15th
The bottom seven at the moment, then, with just over five minutes to go: DIR, KOV, TRU, GLO, DAM, LIU, KAR.
It looks as though Liuzzi and Karthikeyan are outside the 107%, as they are not even counted in the dropzone.
Both Renaults have gone out on the soft tyre, and Alonso has just headed out on softs as well. Not confident?
Meanwhile, Sauber out on soft have moved up to 3rd and 4th. That might explain why everyone else feels the need for softs too.
Current leader Vettel and second place Hamilton are tucked up in the garage for now.
Just under two minutes to go.
Liuzzi's car is falling apart, spewing bits of carbon fibre as it circles the track.
Comment from Bassano: The sellotape is wearing out on the HRT
Bottom five then, HEI, KOV, TRU, GLO, DAM.
30 seconds to go.
Qualifying session 1 ends.
Heidfeld is on a lap, Massa is also down in 17th.
Heidfeld improves to push Massa down, but the Ferrari is on a lap. Pressure is on.
Massa improves to 11th, Heidfeld is back in the drop zone.
Top five in that session, Vettel, Hamilton, Petrov, Alonso and Kobayashi.
Compared to the vast gap between the Renault boys, Pérez and Kobayashi at Sauber were super close.
Glock is taking a good look at a Renault as it is weighed by the FIA. Hoping for the future, perhaps?
Tweet from @MarussiaVirgin: Well, that sort of worked out ok. We are close enough to the PGCs to have a good race tomorrow
Qualifying session 2 begins.
15 minutes more of qualifying, with seven dropping out at the end of Q2.
Buemi and Alguersuari take their Toro Rosso cars out first.
Tweet from @OfficialRGP: Vitaly goes P3 in Q1. Nick had really bad traffic on his final run and just missed the cut.
Massa has gone out on soft tyres again, so they've used two of their three sets already.
Rubens Barrichello has beached the Williams in the gravel.
He's stuck at corner two, so his qualifying is over.
Three, actually. Two or three. Either way, not very far along.
Yellow flags as the Williams is recovered.
Times are starting to come in, but with the flags being waved, they're not too fast.
Rubens in the gravel.
Buemi is currently leading with a 1:26.053.
Track is clear.
Ten minutes left.
So far, only half the cars have set a laptime.
Hamilton jumps up to the top of the times, with a 1:25.522.
Vettel is now on a hot lap, as replays show Hamilton locking up his tyres.
Button moves up, a 1:24.957.
Team radio to Hamilton: "Please keep the pace up on your inlap."
Vettel moves up to a 1:24.090 - fastest time of the weekend.
Webber moves up to second place.
In the drop zone at the moment, Sutil, Maldonado, Massa, Barrichello, Kobayashi, Petrov and Pérez.
Massa moves up to 6th, dropping Di Resta down.
Kobayashi moves up to 7th.
Schumacher has been dropped down into the bottom seven.
Sutil had a proper 360 spin and managed to continue onwards in style!
Replays show a mixture of the rear wing and hitting the kerb caused Sutil to spin, kicking up a plume of white smoke.
He did well to keep control and stay out of the barriers.
Thirty seconds to go.
Schumacher improves to 11th, still in the drop zone but he has another lap in hand.
Qualifying session 2 ends.
|12||J Alguersuari||Toro Rosso|
|14||P Di Resta||Force India|
|16||A Sutil||Force India|
On his qualifying debut, Paul has finished higher than his teammate.
|Paul di Resta||14th|
Rubens Barrichello: "I think it was a pure error. This morning we had a problem with the gearbox, things were rushed in a way. We had the prime tyres at the time, so it didn't even matter, so I just ran a bit wide and made a mistake. A silly one."
Fastest five drivers in that session were: Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Button and Alonso.
Qualifying session 3 begins.
No one heads out straight away. A pause to see who will come out first.
Ten minutes to sort the top ten drivers into order.
Hamilton heads out first on the soft tyres.
Nick Heidfeld makes his way to the pit wall to discuss qualifying with his engineers. He's shaking his head a lot.
Again, Hamilton locks up the front tyres, a puff of smoke flying off as he makes the corner.
Six drivers are out on track. Hamilton looks fast, Vettel is also flying behind him.
Both Ferrari drivers, plus Petrov and Kobayashi are still in the pits.
Hamilton sets a 1:24.501, with Button crossing the line behind to slip into second.
Vettel drops the times into the 1:23.529. A 1:23!!
Webber slips into second, eight tenths behind Vettel.
Vettel is an entire second faster than Hamilton.
Tweet from @InsideFerrari: Q3 has just begun. We will wait a bit of time to find the right moment to do our runs.
Four minutes remaining.
The top drivers return to the pitlane to prepare for the final run. The four remaining head out on track.
Massa and Petrov have not yet been out. Alonso is out on his last set of soft tyres.
Massa heads out on track and has spun it.
Brief yellow flags as he rights the Ferrari and continues onwards.
Replay shows that he nudged the kerb and spun it just a couple of corners in, cold tyres.
30 seconds to go.
Alonso is on a hot lap now.
The Ferrari moves to 5th. Meanwhile, Vettel is out again going faster than... well, himself.
Qualifying session 3 ends.
Phew, he didn't go faster than himself but he is still on pole for now.
Webber can't beat him, Hamilton moves up to second.
Button stays fourth.
Team radio from Button: "I think I got a bit too close to the car in front, the good news is the pace is in the car."
|1||S Vettel||Red Bull|
|3||M Webber||Red Bull|
|10||S Buemi||Toro Rosso|
Tweet from @redbullf1spy: That'll be pole for Sebastian in Melbourne and Mark in P3 with Hamilton between them. Nice work gentlemen, nice work...
Christian Horner: "Just disappointed to lose the second place with Mark, letting Lewis on the front row. Great performance from Seb, great start to the season. Difficult to understand where the time is between them, especially in the last sector. There's nothing obvious. We need to have a good look at the data to understand why, but it was a phenomenal couple of laps from Seb there."
Qualifying top three.
Tweet from @InsideFerrari: Session finished: Fernando is 5th, Felipe 8th. Not the qualifying we were expecting but the race is tomorrow.
Martin Whitmarsh: "[Lewis] had a KERS failure, so that would have, apart from not having KERS hybrid boost, he would also have lost brake balance. So that was a bit of a disadvantage. Sebastian is quick, so it would have been tough to beat him, but we would have been closer without him. Compared to where we have been, it's not too displeasing to be second place and Jenson fourth.
"Jenson's a little bit disappointed with that... he wasn't quite comfortable with the balance of the car this session. By his standard that was a disappointing performance, he felt he should have been quicker than that. Nonetheless, he's on the second row, he can win the race from there, Lewis can win the race."
Press conference quotes - Sebastian Vettel: "Obviously, winter testing has been busy and we all tried to work our way around the tyres. I think coming here we were all surprised how well they were working on what lap, and what we have seen on Friday with a bit more fuel in the car... quite promising for Sunday. Surely, we have done the first step, starting the season that way is like you want. We've been working very hard to get that new car where it is now. It's mostly down to the people back in the factory plus the people here making the car ready. It was a pleasure today, quite fast, I'm very, very happy with the result."
Press conference quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "I'm absolutely thrilled to be up here today. The guy's back at the factory have done an unbelievable job. A massive step this weekend... we've really got ourselves on the right track. A great foundation for us to build upon."
Press conference quotes - Mark Webber: "Couldn't do the times today, I was disappointed in my performance. Seb put in a good lap... I tried my best, a little mystified at the gap to Seb but we'll go through it and look where I can improve. Credit to the team, obviously it's not the best day for me but the bar is high."
Press conference quotes - Sebastian Vettel: "I think the key is always to finish the race, see the chequered flag. Last year halfway through we had to retire. I'm quite confident, we had very good preparation in the winter, we didn't have any reliability issues... and not too slow. Things are looking good but it's a hard race tomorrow, with the new tyres it's like racing into the unknown. We can kind of guess how the tyres will behave but we'll have to see how it is. It will be quite entertaining for us as well, a lot of things we need to keep an eye on... I think today was the base and couldn't have been any better."
What a qualifying session to kick us off with!
No one is surprised that Red Bull are fast, but where we expecting Vettel to be quite so supreme quite so early?
McLaren are closer than expected and Ferrari not quite so much.
Talking of Ferrari, they were the favourite in our poll to be the last to cross the line in Q3 with 36% of the vote. Alonso did his best, but it was actually Button who took the final time.
Red Bull had 32% of the vote, and McLaren picked up 23% - so congratulation to those who got it right.
Lots of surprises today, with Petrov doing well, the Saubers looking strong, a Toro Rosso in the top ten and Ferrari struggling.
The race tomorrow is going to be absolutely fascinating, so I hope you're going to be around to enjoy it with us.
Don't forget, if you're in the UK, the clocks go forward this very evening, so the race will begin at 7am BST. That's GMT+1. The BBC build-up (and your loyal FBFB) will start an hour beforehand.
Daylight savings is confusing, but I have faith we will all reconvene at the right time.
See you then!
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