Home favourite Mark Webber was beaten to pole position by his young Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel in qualifying today at Albert Park, Melbourne. Fernando Alonso qualified third for Ferrari and Jenson Button will start fourth. Button's teammate Lewis Hamilton didn't even make it into Q3, as his difficult weekend in Melbourne continues.
Traffic was the main problem in Q1, with 24 cars, some six seconds a lap quicker than others, all fighting for the same bit of narrow, twisty tarmac. Cars were slowing down to give themselves space, becoming mobile chicanes for the drivers setting fast lap times. Sebastian Vettel set the early pace in the first section of qualifying, and Nico Rosberg, with a late flying lap, finished Q1 in second place ahead of the two McLarens led by Jenson Button.
The six new teams were, of course, out of qualifying early, and Vitaly Petrov was the driver joining them in the bottom seven. The Renault driver had an off-track moment on his final flying lap which condemned him to an early exit. The two Lotus cars were again the best of the new teams, Heikki Kovalainen leading Jarno Trulli. Timo Glock was the faster of the two Virgin cars, and Hispania took the last two places on the Melbourne grid tomorrow, with Bruno Senna ahead of Karun Chandhok.
There was a problem for Lewis Hamilton early in Q2, as he aborted a flying lap to dive back into the garage. With less than five minutes of the session to go he set his first respectable lap time of the session to just creep into the top ten.
Unfortunately for Hamilton there was not enough time to dive back into the pits for another set of soft tyres and as other drivers came out on fresh sets of tyres, the Brit slipped down the order and out of the top ten again. Hamilton didn't have the fuel for another lap, he was out of qualifying, and will start eleventh tomorrow.
Sebastien Buemi, Tonio Liuzzi, Pedro de la Rosa, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari will start behind Hamilton in that order tomorrow.
Vettel again topped the timesheets in Q2, ahead of home favourite Mark Webber. Schumacher was again behind Rosberg, 2.5 tenths off the pace of his young teammate, but safely through to Q3 in sixth position.
Mark Webber was first out of the pit lane in Q3 – a man on a mission in qualifying for his home race. There was still no sign of rain, but most drivers were keen to get a lap time under their belts in the ten minute shoot-out for pole position.
Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil remained in the pits to begin with, choosing to forsake grid position for slightly fresher tyres at the beginning of tomorrow's race.
Webber, who has a grandstand named after him in Melbourne this year, was fastest to begin with. However, teammate Vettel obviously hadn't read the script, beating Webber's time by over one tenth of a second on his first flying lap.
It soon looked as though a Red Bull on pole was inevitable. Only Alonso was within half a second of their best times. Track temperatures fell as rain clouds came over the track towards the end of the session, and there was no improvement in lap times.
Vettel grabbed pole ahead of Webber. Alonso and Button make up the second row and Massa starts fifth. Rosberg again got the better of teammate Schumacher, with the two Mercedes starting six and seventh. Barrichello had a good qualifying for Williams in eighth, while Kubica and Sutil make up the top ten.