LIVE COMMENTARY: 2010 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX - SATURDAY PRACTICE
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As it happened: Saturday Practice
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Albert Park, Melbourne © Sutton
Hello and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live for continuing coverage of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Albert Park in Melbourne provides the setting for the second round of the season. Following an uneventful race two weeks ago in Bahrain, the drivers hit the track yesterday and quickly put on a show.
Race fans everywhere are hoping for more of the same today and the prospects look good for a close, exciting battle between the top four teams.
Settle back and enjoy the action with us for the next few hours as the best drivers in the world strive for the ultimate hot lap ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
Today, we will guide you through the final practice session with minute-by-minute commentary as the teams and drivers begin their build-up to qualifying.
Third practice will begin shortly, with commentary ending 15 minutes after the session has concluded.
Later, at 05:45 GMT, we will return for live coverage of the all-important qualifying session and the battle for pole position.
There could be a big weather change on the way for Sunday. AUTOSPORT Live will wrap up the day with a detailed look at the latest forecast for the race on the
Australian Grand Prix Weather
Lewis Hamilton © Sutton
Day one of Formula 1 track action at Albert Park had everything, as the drivers took to the track to check their baseline set-ups and attempted to run a full programme of work to take forward into qualifying and the race.
Robert Kubica caused a stir during first practice as he hurled his Renault round in a quick 1m26.927s to take the top spot in dry conditions ahead of Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel.
Kubica fastest in first Melbourne practice
Light rain hit the circuit during the late afternoon session, but some dry times were possible between the showers as the circuit condition switched back and forth between damp and dry.
McLaren surged to the front with Lewis Hamilton leading the pack on 1m25.801s, ahead of team-mate Jenson Button. Mark Webber gave the home crowd something to cheer about with a strong run to third place, with Michael Schumacher fourth and reveling in the greasy conditions. Vitaly Petrov rounded out the top five, keeping Renault up there in the hunt.
Hamilton tops rain-interrupted FP2
Weather-wise, we are set for a similar story to Friday's conditions. This morning was gloriously sunny with just a few clouds around, but moving into the afternoon the clouds have drifted over once again.
It is mostly overcast now and set to continue like this for much of the day. Like yesterday, there is a slight risk of light showers towards the end of the day, but these should occur after qualifying.
The temperature has dropped noticeably with a maximum today of just 23 degrees Celsius.
Mark Webber meets Australian fans © Sutton
AUTOSPORT forum members are invited to join the fun throughout the weekend, offering thoughts and opinions as the event unfolds.
• Mark Webber enjoyed a solid start to his home event yesterday, grabbing third place in the second practice session. Can he go one better and put his Red Bull on the front row today?
• Michael Schumacher was in fighting form in the damp conditions. The German is clearly hungry to fight for the win this weekend, but does his Mercedes have the pace?
• Can Renault continue its positive start to the weekend and find good one lap pace during final practice and qualifying?
Tell everyone what you think.
Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you would like to join the debate.
HRT drivers Senna and Chandhok © Sutton
Some of the trackside stories in brief ahead of final practice:
• A passionate crowd was once again on hand in Melbourne, braving the afternoon showers to cheer on their Formula 1 heros. Organisers estimated 68,000 fans watched the Friday sessions at Albert Park.
• Speed in the cramped Albert Park pitlane is set to be a factor this weekend, with a 60 km/h limit imposed for all track action. Bruno Senna and Adrian Sutil were both caught seven clicks over the limit during practice yesterday, but nobody could match Vitaly Petrov's speedy 94.6 km/h, which cost the Renault driver 7,000 Euros.
• Reliability is still a struggle for the new teams. While the Lotus cars ran well yesterday afternoon, Virgin spent much of the day fixing a gearbox oil leak on Timo Glock's car and a troublesome telemetry box on Lucas di Grassi's machine. At HRT, Karun Chandhok was happy to get some miles in the morning session, but sat out much of the afternoon with a gearbox issue. Team-mate Bruno Senna was sidelined by a lack of fuel pressure.
Bridgestone tyres © Sutton
With yesterday's second practice session disrupted by intermittent rain showers, the teams still have a lot of work to do in finalising set-up and gathering data on tyre performance ahead of qualifying.
Bahrain's third practice session saw a lot of preparations taking place for the grid-deciding hour - but here in Melbourne, with the lack of running yesterday afternoon, drivers are likely to do some further race work this morning - at least in the first half of the session.
Track conditions will start far from ideal after extensive support race action and the wet running on Friday, meaning grip levels will improve as more rubber goes down on the street surface.
"The running we have had so far is insufficient for conclusions to be drawn, so tomorrow's practice will be very important," said Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima.
Final practice for the Australian Grand Prix begins in five minutes.
Under overcast skies, the track temperature is 29 Celsius with a 21 degree ambient.
Michael Schumacher wanders into the Mercedes garage. With just a few minutes to go before the pits open, it is unlikely that he will be out straight away.
There is quite a strong breeze blowing as the drivers prepare to head out for the hour-long session.
Adrian Sutil is strapped snugly into the Force India. The mechanics are making final preparations before sending the German out.
Nico Hulkenberg is advised about the wind conditions over the team radio as he prepares to go out.
The practice session is underway.
Tonio Liuzzi gets the action underway in the Force India. He is followed by most of the field.
The harder tyre is the rubber of choice for these installation laps.
Liuzzi leads the pack back into the pitlane. No-one is going round for a second lap so far today.
The Ferrari pair of Alonso and Massa join the queue of cars heading back into the pits.
Karun Chandhok and Rubens Barrichello are the only two drivers on the circuit currently, making it 18 drivers who have gone out to check the conditions.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button practice starts in the McLarens before heading around for their first lap of the day.
Chandhok of course will be keen to get some mileage today, having missed most of the second session on Friday.
Four drivers have yet to take to the track. They are Bruno Senna, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
Chandhok returns to the pits and the HRT team can now check over the telemetry data to ensure the car is running properly.
The McLaren pair return to the pits, leaving the track silent for the moment.
An engine fires into life and it is the HRT machine with Bruno Senna at the wheel. He joins the track for his installation lap.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh and Mercedes boss Norbert Haug chat in the pitlane during this slow start to the session.
Senna winds his way round the 5.303km circuit in front of a very strong crowd. The grandstands are packed as Senna returns to the pits.
Senna is wheeled back into the HRT garage by the mechanics, and now the data download can begin from that installation run.
Vitaly Petrov's Renault is the first to head out after being checked over in the garage.
All is routine in the Red Bull garage for the moment, as Mark Webber's father Alan waves to the watching world.
Elsewhere, brinkmanship continues along the pitlane with none of the teams keen to be first out to clean the track.
Petrov is over the line and on to a timed lap.
De la Rosa, Massa and Glock are also on track to begin their runs.
Tonio Liuzzi comes out in the Force India for his first run of the day.
Petrov gets it all wrong on the approach to the tricky Turn 15, only just avoiding the popular grass on the outside. His time is a slow 1m32.342s.
Jaime Alguersuari is now also on track to give the Toro Rosso a run.
Massa is pressing on for a time on his hard compound tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg joins an increasing number of drivers on track. Petrov is the only driver to have set a time with 45 minutes to go.
The teams will be keen to see how the harder option works in these cooler conditions.
Karun Chandhok, Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Buemi all head out onto the circuit.
Petrov improves his time to a 1m28.597s.
Massa was on to easily top the order but lost a lot of time through the final sector. Nevertheless, he is quickest with a 1m28.516s.
De la Rosa and Glock have slotted in third and fourth quickest.
Nico Rosberg is also out there now along with Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher. The Mercedes drivers may be on an installation lap.
Petrov tops Massa's benchmark with a 1m27.532s.
Massa responds to take back the top time, clocking a 1m27.190s.
Jaime Alguersuari posts 1m29.949s to go fourth in the standings, but is quickly beaten to that position by Nico Hulkenberg in the Williams.
Teams are expecting to find more pace after several laps on these hard tyres. With the grip levels also improving, times are set to tumble in these early stages.
Schumacher and Rosberg continue round for a second lap. Rosberg is moving at racing speed, while the seven-time champion is bedding his car in slowly.
Fernando Alonso has joined the timesheet down in eighth, but is on a much quicker lap now.
Nico Hulkenberg goes second to Massa with a lap of 1m27.449s as the front-running pace improves.
Alonso encounters traffic in the final sector, forcing him to back off.
All 24 cars are now out on the circuit. Traffic chaos will follow.
Nico Rosberg shoots to the top of the pile with 1m26.463s, but just a few seconds later Vettel takes over with 1m26.242s in the Red Bull.
Replays pick up another moment for Vitaly Petrov as the Russian gets a wobble under control approaching Turn 3.
Michael Schumacher slots in fourth behind Felipe Massa with a 1m26.921s lap.
This spell of long runs continue with Alonso again hitting heavy traffic towards the end of the lap.
Lewis Hamilton is now the fastest man through the first sector.
Hamilton has clear track in front of him and is also quickest through the middle part of the lap.
The order at the front is Vettel leading the pack with 1m26.242s ahead of Rosberg, Massa, Schumacher and Petrov, but Hamilton is flying.
Over the line and a 1m25.706s is the new time to beat from Lewis Hamilton.
Rubens Barrichello posts his best time of the session so far. 1m29.380s puts the Brazilian in 13th.
It has been a traffic nightmare this morning for Fernando Alonso, who has now been stuck behind an HRT driver.
Michael Schumacher jumps up the list from fifth to second quickest with a time of 1m26.083s.
Vettel crosses the line in 1m25.963s and retakes second place from his countryman.
Jenson Button improves to fourth quickest in his McLaren, despite having to clear di Grassi's Virgin.
But down the field Mark Webber is extremely quick. He's on the harder tyre and set to go to the top.
Webber moves up from 18th to second place with 1m25.774s in the Red Bull Renault.
Many of the cars are back in the pits for the engineers to pour over the data after a busy spurt of laps.
Rubens Barrichello is continuing round on a run of several laps, but is baulked by the HRT of Senna going into Turn 14.
In fact Senna has a problem. He pulls off the circuit with no drive in the Hispania Racing machine.
The marshals are now removing Senna's car to a safe place behind the barrier at Turn 2.
Meanwhile, Jenson Button improves to third with an effort just over two tenths slower than team-mate Hamilton.
Replays show that Senna was fine down the pit straight, but suddenly lost drive heading into Turn 1.
As Button pits, Petrov in the Renault is the only man circulating.
Karun Chandhok has made it back into the pits at the end of a serious run of laps. He has completed 10 laps so far today and is 23rd in the standings, 8.6 seconds off the pace.
Robert Kubica tells the team on the radio that he is lacking overall grip and that the car is not as good as yesterday.
Team-mate Petrov is testing the softer tyres.
Jaime Alguersuari comes out to join Petrov on the circuit.
De la Rosa in the Sauber and Kovalainen in the Lotus are also out again.
Felipe Massa heads out of the Ferrari garage for another run on the harder rubber.
Nico Rosberg and Sebastien Buemi come out for a second run. Rosberg is sixth in the classification so far.
Alonso sets his best time of the session but is still down in 16th overall.
Michael Schumacher joins Mercedes team-mate Rosberg on the track. Schumacher will be looking to improve on his current fifth place.
Alonso's next effort is much better and he springs up to third quickest with a 1m25.916s on the harder tyres.
Jaime Alguersuari moves up slightly from 14th to 12th with a lap of 1m27.131s as he looks to find more speed from the Toro Rosso.
Progress continues for Fernando Alonso as he tops the times with a 1m25.559s.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Fernando Alonso leads the pack on 1m25.559s ahead of Hamilton, Webber, Button and Vettel.
Hamilton is back on track in the McLaren with his current lap slowed by catching Webber's Red Bull.
Alonso pits after a promising run in the Ferrari on the harder tyres.
Michael Schumacher leaps up the order to second place behind Alonso with 1m25.690s. The coffee drinking friends run one and two at Albert Park.
Schumacher now gets the better of Alonso with 1m25.494s to head the list in the Mercedes.
Robert Kubica improves to ninth quickest in his Renault, with team-mate Petrov now 10th.
Jaime Alguersuari is really unhappy on the Toro Rosso team radio. He states that as the track conditions get better he is encountering more and more understeer, especially mid-corner.
He is 13th in the standings at the moment with 1m26.922s.
Kubica's progress continues on the harder tyres as he moves up to eighth.
Mark Webber has jumped up to the top with a lap of 1m25.309s. That is almost two-tenths of a second clear of Schumacher.
Webber pits at the end of his next lap, to make further changes ahead of a final pre-qualifying run on the circuit.
Most of the drivers are back in the pits before a final qualifying run on the softer tyres.
Teams will have a lot of data to go over before the cars are locked in parc ferme, with track conditions evolving quickly.
Behind Webber and Schumacher, Alonso is now third with Vettel fourth, Hamilton fifth and Nico Rosberg in sixth place.
Kobayashi is going for an early qualifying simulation with the softer tyres on his Sauber.
Jarno Trulli sets his best time of the session in his Lotus for 20th overall and now ahead of the Virgin and HRT cars.
Bruno Senna's problem on the circuit at Turns 1 and 2 was another hydraulic pressure failure. Senna told ONE HD that he is unsure if the problem can be fixed for qualifying.
Kobayashi springs up to 11th with his qualifying effort of 1m26.366s.
Fernando Alonso is rolling out for a run on the softer tyres. He will be hoping to avoid traffic this time.
Lewis Hamilton is also heading around for a flying lap as less than 10 minutes remain in practice.
Alonso clears the Virgin of di Grassi early in his first flyer on the softer tyres.
Michael Schumacher joins the racetrack for his final run of the session.
Jenson Button sets the fastest first sector as the final flying laps get underway.
Mark Webber also comes out. We are set for a fantastic final few minutes of this final practice session.
Alonso clocks a 1m25.456s to go second quickest.
Hamilton is on a quicker lap than Button, who crosses the line without improvement.
Hamiton clocks a 1m25.505s for fourth quickest, just under two tenths off Webber's benchmark.
Webber is running a set of the softer tyres in a bid to find some raw one lap pace. He immediately takes the quickest first sector time.
Webber posts a personal best in the second sector and yes ... he sets a brilliant 1m24.794s lap to send a shudder down the pitlane.
Fernando Alonso is quickest through the middle sector and remains second to Webber but is just over a tenth off the local hero's latest time
Nico Rosberg improves to third place in the Mercedes with 1m25.366s.
Vettel takes third from Rosberg with a 1m25.122s in the Red Bull, but behind him on the road Schumacher is set for a quick lap.
The McLarens of Hamilton and Button have slid to sixth and seventh as the final flurry of times continue.
Schumacher crosses the line and improves to fourth place - just ahead of team-mate Rosberg. Schumacher's time was 1m25.216s.
Mark Webber just avoids the traffic in the last corner and goes even quicker - 1m24.719s.
Schumacher posts his latest effort and moves up another place to third with a 1m24.963s. The order is Webber, Alonso, Schumacher and Vettel at the top.
A late yellow flag has slowed the action as Karun Chandhok's HRT has pulled to a halt at Turn 7.
Webber and Schumacher return to the pits at the end of that flurry of action and fast laps.
The flag is out, ending final practice in Melbourne.
Button makes a late improvement to go sixth quickest.
Mark Webber climbs out of the Red Bull Renault after setting the fastest time in the final practice session at Albert Park.
Cars trail back to the pits, with Kobayashi's Sauber the last to head for the garage
Webber posted 1m24.719s, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. The top three are separated by 0.244 seconds.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth in the second Red Bull machine, with Nico Rosberg fifth and Jenson Button taking sixth place on his last lap.
Hamilton wound up seventh, with Force India showing good form. Sutil was eighth with team-mate Liuzzi tenth. Massa sandwiched in ninth spot.
Our round up of the session is now available:
Webber leads final practice in Australia
A frantic final hour of practice ends with Mark Webber leading the field in the Red Bull. The packed crowd at Albert Park will hope he can replicate this form later in qualifying and take pole position at home.
Can he do it or will the chasing pack stop him? Join us from 05:45 GMT to find out.
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