LIVE COMMENTARY: 2010 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX - AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX WEATHER
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As it happened: Australian Grand Prix Weather
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
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Pre-season hype and the prospect of exciting racing turned to dust in the desert heat of the season opener in Bahrain. While the sport's rule-makers are hesitant to make rash changes to the racing format in the wake of hefty criticism from fans, ironically the weather may step in to guarantee excitement this weekend.
The teams and drivers are now busy preparing for round two of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship - the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne - and early forecasts suggest that the weather could be changeable, to say the least.
Weather models show high pressure beginning to drift slowly from west to east across Australia over the coming days, bringing dry weather and sunny spells to the state of Victoria until Thursday. However, changes are afoot as the first of two low pressure systems moves in from the Pacific Ocean towards southern parts of Australia and Tasmania.
The first system is set to be a weak affair (1018 millibars) on Friday, but a more potent second area of low pressure (1000 mb) is predicted to centre over Tasmania on Sunday afternoon.
The midweek sunshine will disappear by Friday as the cloud builds from the west. Currently we expect a dry but mainly overcast day for practice, with possibly an occasional glimpse of the sun during the second session and a maximum temperature of 28 degrees.
Saturday could see conditions turn damp for a time. There will breaks in the cloud allowing some brief sunny spells, but occasional showers could be blown in from the ocean during the afternoon. Temperatures will drop slightly as the wind swings around to a northerly direction. Top temperatures are set to be cooler than the first day, at around 25 Celsius.
Race day poses the biggest chance of weather impacting the on-track action at the moment. As the second low moves in, showers and possibly longer spells of rain are expected during the afternoon, with the threat of rain lasting into the evening. The top temperature will again reach 25 or 26 degrees Celsius, but wind speeds will increase, giving the drivers another factor to consider.
So a fine start to the week will become more changeable as we head towards the weekend. AUTOSPORT Live will monitor the development of these low pressure systems over the next 48 hours and we will publish a further update on Wednesday.
Showers and longer spells of rain remain in the forecast for the second round on the 2010 world championship trail but, as the finer detail of this weekend's weather evolves, it could be a case of being wet at all the wrong times for fans hoping for a damp Australian Grand Prix.
Force India drivers Tonio Liuzzi, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta sampled the delights of St. Kilda beach earlier today with a gentle stroll while out to the south-west, over the Pacific Ocean, the weather story continues to develop.
High pressure will remain in control until Friday, when a cold front associated with a 982 millibar low pressure system - the first of two such systems that we mentioned in Monday's original forecast - passes over Victoria.
The cold front will quickly be pushed east on Friday night as a ridge of high pressure brings slightly drier conditions for Saturday, but the advancement north-east of a 996 mb second low into Victoria, bringing heavy rain late on Sunday, remains a concern.
Friday will start dry with mainly cloudy conditions and occasional sunny spells through mid-morning. During the latter part of the morning and early afternoon, thicker cloud will arrive from the south-west, resulting in a slight risk of light showers later in the afternoon - possibly towards the end of second practice. This weather front will be losing intensity as it passes over Victoria, so any rain could be short-lived. Temperatures will reach 25 degrees Celsius with a light northerly breeze.
Saturday is expected to keep the mainly cloudy theme going, perhaps with occasional sunny intervals. The wind direction will swing round to a southerly source but will remain light with temperatures peaking at 24 Celsius.
Latest forecast models published today indicate that the risk of significant rain before the end of the grand prix is receding. Race day will dawn dry and mostly cloudy with brief spells of sunshine. Just as on Friday, thicker cloud will develop between late morning and early afternoon. The race will take place in fully overcast conditions, with just a slight risk of some light rain or drizzle. Heavy rain is now expected just after midnight - some six hours after the race.
The swings in wind direction will prove to be a problem for the drivers and race engineers, as we move back to a southerly breeze, with a top race day temperature of 29 Celsius.
The weather systems skirting southern parts of Australia are complex and further detail changes are possible. Tomorrow we will publish a short update on the latest forecasts ahead of the live Friday action from Albert Park.
Unsettled conditions and a chance of some showers remains the weather story for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix. But, even as the Formula 1 press and PR machine moved into top gear on Thursday, forecasts remain far from certain on when and just how much rain may fall over Melbourne.
Latest forecasts suggest tomorrow's practice sessions should take place in dry conditions. We can expect very cloudy - probably overcast - skies throughout much of the day. Occasionally the sun will poke through the clouds, but it will be nothing to write home about. There remains just an outside chance that a few spots of light rain could fall during the second session, but track conditions should be largely unaffected. There is a slightly greater risk of rain towards evening, but this should only amount to light showers. Temperature predictions are on the rise as the situation develops. The top temperature will be around 27 degrees Celsius.
The risk of rain is now forecast to continue into Saturday as a weak trough - depicted
- is set to bring showers to Victoria state. It will be overcast throughout the final practice and qualifying sessions and the latest weather model calculations suggest that there is a risk of showers during the on-track action. The lack of sunshine and generally cooler conditions wil peg back the temperature, with a maximum of 23 degrees.
Sunday's rain remains set to be a post-race event, but it will another overcast day with little or no sunshine around. Moderate rain is expected to begin some four hours after the end of the race. The maximum temperature will rise slightly to 28 Celsius.
Can Ferrari pick up where it left off in Bahrain and establish itself as the team to beat this weekend? Join us right here on AUTOSPORT Live as the weekend unfolds. Our coverage of first practice from Albert Park will begin on Friday at 01:15 GMT.
Late afternoon showers put paid to any chance of an entertaining second session of practice for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, but that wasn't enough to stop Lewis Hamilton taking the quickest time while the track was at its best.
The shower risk will continue for the next few hours, before clearing away to the east, leaving a dry night.
Saturday will see conditions remain overcast during Formula 1 track activity, but it is likely to stay dry for the final practice and qualifying sessions. There is an outside chance of a shower as the afternoon draws on, but nothing more than that.
Significantly, the wind direction is set to veer to a south-westerly coming in from the Pacific Ocean and the temperature will drop to around 23 degrees.
On Sunday we are set for a repeat performance. Overcast conditions are likely for the race with a dry morning and early part of the afternoon in prospect.
The rain that we have talked about all week as being expected in the evening could still be a factor. Precise timing on the Sunday evening rain is moving around with every new weather model calculation that is released. The suggestion from the latest GFS data is that light showers, similar to what we saw during today's second practice, could arrive towards the end of the race.
Another change in wind direction back to a north-westerly will help temperatures climb during the race to around 26 Celsius.
Tomorrow, the teams will have just one hour of running to sort out the strategy for qualifying and the race. Join us here on AUTOSPORT Live to see who has the one lap pace from 02:15 GMT.
Red Bull Racing is hoping for a party in Melbourne on Sunday after dominating qualifying for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. But 58 laps of combat, winds of up to 40 km/h and - possibly - some rain could just throw a spanner in the works.
For the last six days we have been closely watching a low pressure system out to the south-west in the Pacific Ocean. The timing of rainfall associated with the low has moved around slightly over the last few days, but today's weather model calculations heralded a shift forwards - to late afternoon and early evening on Sunday.
Light sprinkling occurred during the V8 race following qualifying and that threat of rain will continue into this evening.
Tomorrow morning is expected to dawn dry, but mostly cloudy. The wind will become noticeably stronger through the morning and early afternoon. Heavy cloud cover will build from the west as the low begins to move towards Victoria.
Latest weather models indicate that outlying showers ahead of the main band of wet weather could hit Melbourne between 4pm and 7pm local time. The race begins at 5pm and by this time wind speeds will strengthen to around 30 km/h, gusting towards 40 km/h at times.
The maps shown indicate the predicted movement of rainfall for Sunday. A band of rain will fragment as it passes over Victoria leading to showers with occasionally prolonged spells of light or moderate rain at times. The heaviest of the rain is expected to fall at Albert Park after the race.
Thanks to the warm but strong north-westerly wind, temperatures will increase significantly tomorrow. A maximum air temperature of 29 or perhaps 30 degrees Celsius is expected.
One aspect of the deteriorating weather to consider is the start time of the race. Last year the event was time-shifted back to a 5pm start, primarily to ensure a better television audience in Europe. Clear skies last year provided problems with the setting sun, but the light was fading by the time Jenson Button crossed the line. With leaden skies and showers around, the fading light could become an issue in the final laps of the race.
Will Sebastian Vettel end up celebrating in the dark, or will Mark Webber light up Australia with a home victory? Join us for all the build-up and full coverage of the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow from 04:30 GMT.
Race day flash update:
As expected, weather conditions are deteriorating in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon. The first fringes of a band of rain that is marching towards the city recently provided a light shower, making the circuit damp.
That rain, as seen by the
local rainfall radar
, is playing out the expectations of the forecast models and continues on a course to be overhead during the race - making a rain-affected grand prix highly likely at the time of writing.
Join us for all the build-up and full coverage of the Australian Grand Prix from 04:30 GMT.
LIVE COVERAGE NAVIGATOR
Monday 22 Mar
Australian Grand Prix Weather
Friday 26 Mar
Friday Practice 1
Friday Practice 2
Saturday 27 Mar
Sunday 28 Mar
Race day at Albert Park
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