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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton, Emlyn Hughes and Sam Tremayne
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
05:50 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live as we continue the story of the 2012 Australian Grand Prix - round one of the FIA Formula 1 world championship from Albert Park, Melbourne.

05:51 Lewis Hamilton blasted his way round the 5.303km parkland circuit in 1m25.881s earlier today to top the final practice session, ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg.

The session was building nicely towards qualifying simulation runs in the final stages, but excursions into the gravel for Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher put paid to any dramatic climax.

Hamilton quickest in final practice

05:53 Weather conditions are much improved over yesterday's squally showers. It is fine and dry with mainly sunny conditions and temperatures just beginning to fall away from a maximum of 22 degrees Celsius.

05:54 Motor racing fans love to debate and discuss the action on track, and the live forum at the bottom of the screen is your chance to let everyone know your thoughts on events as they unfold at the circuit.

• Will the HRT drivers get near the 107% target? Who else will join them for an early bath after Q1?

• Do you envisage any surprises in Q2 and a big name or two getting caught out?

• Who will claim the season-opening pole position for tomorrow's race?

Tell the world what you think.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

05:55 Just five minutes remain until the qualifying action begins at Albert Park.

05:55 Track conditions remain relatively poor around the parkland track, with grip levels set to improve as the session goes on.

05:56 The performance gap between the two Pirelli compounds has been reduced this year, with the soft tyre providing around half a second per lap.

05:57 That means the harder rubber will be useful for making early progress, again allowing leading teams to save tyres for use in the race.

05:59 Sebastian Vettel is belted into the RB8 as he gets ready to rock this afternoon. Webber similarly climbs into the sister car.

05:59 Final preparations being made in the garages with the first qualifying hour now less than a minute away.

0 min: The first qualifying session of the year begins at Albert Park.

0 min: Glock is the first man out of the pits with soft tyres on his Marussia.

0 min: Want to know who Pirelli's @PaulHembery is tipping for pole? Well, his latest tweet might provide a steer - "I am going for Lewis on pole in our team sweepstake"

1 min: Glock and team-mate Pic, who is also on track, are under pressure to deliver a lap under the 107% time in this segment.

2 min: The new Marussia failed to make pre-season testing after problems with the mandatory crash test, but Glock is now on a flying lap.

3 min: @Marussia_F1Team tweets: "Such an amazing moment for young Charles Pic. Whatever happens now he's done a fantastic job so far"

3 min: Pastor Maldonado heads out and he is followed by Nico Hulkenberg.

3 min: Vettel, di Resta and Ricciardo are also out there to begin a first run.

3 min: Glock sets the ball rolling with a first flyer of 1m32.997s.

4 min: Pic beats his team-mate with an initial offering of 1m32.349s.

4 min: Vergne joins the racetrack as the early runners begin to post times on the board.

5 min: Hamilton and Alonso are on track, using the medium compound to bank a time.

5 min: Senna goes third with a time of 1m33.635s.

5 min: Raikkonen and Grosjean are out on the harder tyre for Lotus.

6 min: Maldonado takes the other Williams to the top of the early times with 1m28.370s.

6 min: Di Resta is now second with Hulkenberg third and Vettel pops in 1m31.455s for fourth.

7 min: Ricciardo moves into third spot with a time of 1m28.673s.

7 min: Senna takes over at the front with 1m28.223s.

7 min: Raikkonen slots in fifth fastest with a lap of 1m28.857s.

8 min: Vettel is on a better lap this time and he goes fastest with a lap of 1m27.369s.

8 min: Heavy traffic for Alonso as he is slowed by Karthikeyan at the end of his flying lap. The Spaniard is now 10th in the early order.

8 min: Webber moves into fourth with 1m28.365s, but only briefly ...

9 min: Hamilton has missed his braking point for the first corner and taken the popular route over the grass.

9 min: Maldonado improves with a lap of 1m28.069s and is now back up to sixth.

9 min: Meanwhile, Kobayashi is the next man to top the order with a 1m27.048s lap in his Sauber.

9 min: Senna is quickest in the first sector but loses time in the middle part of the circuit.

9 min: Button takes over at the top, lapping at 1m26.986s for McLaren.

10 min: Nevertheless, Senna does improve and is up to fourth with a time of 1m27.223s.

11 min: Vettel's latest lap was spoiled by Karthikeyan, who yet again is in the way.

11 min: Alonso improves to eighth fastest after moving on from earlier traffic problems with Karthikeyan.

11 min: Schumacher moves into fourth spot with a time of 1m27.055s.

12 min: Senna is back into the pits at the end of a six lap run. He is currently sixth in the classification.

12 min: Hamilton continues on his run, improving to a 1m26.800s to top the times for a moment...

12 min: Rosberg goes fastest of all with a time of 1m26.763s.

12 min: Button is now the fastest man in the first part of the lap.

13 min: Vettel is shown getting into more difficulty, this time exiting Turn 10. A scrappy run there for the champion.

13 min: It's a 1m26.832s lap for Button, who is now also within a tenth of Rosberg's benchmark.

13 min: Hamilton complains about the heavy traffic as he is told to return to the McLaren garage. He's currently second fastest.

13 min: Every driver has now posted a time. Kovalainen, Massa, Petrov, Glock, Pic, de la Rosa and Karthikeyan are all in the dropzone.

14 min: @clubforce: "Melbourne qualy is go. Time for some real answers about who stands where in the pecking order." We're certainly hoping so...

14 min: Both Marussia cars are currently inside the 107% time of 1m32.836s after early laps on the soft tyres.

14 min: Di Resta is barely safe in 17th spot, with Ricciardo next to feel the heat in 16th.

14 min: Di Resta is first of those on the edge of the dropzone to head out.

15 min: The benchmark is unlikely to be further improved, with leading drivers now feeling secure - staying in the pits to conserve rubber.

15 min: Hulkenberg follows him out a few seconds later.

15 min: Senna, Maldonado, Vettel and Ricciardo all head out for their last effort.

16 min: Soft tyres for both Senna and Maldonado as they battle to make sure they finish in the top 17.

16 min: Soft tyres also for di Resta and he's on the first of what should be two or three attempts now.

16 min: Massa has slipped to 19th and must improve to avoid an embarrassing early elimination in his Ferrari.

17 min: Meanwhile, Vettel is on track with the harder compound.

17 min: Both Ferrari drivers are heading out on soft tyres.

17 min: Kobayashi jumps up to fourth fastest thanks to a set of soft tyres on his Sauber.

17 min: Senna is setting rapid sector times as we watch di Resta come through ... 1m27.650s and the Scot goes 11th.

18 min: Grosjean takes seventh but still has the harder tyres on his Lotus.

18 min: Senna is up to fifth spot with a time of 1m27.004s.

18 min: Maldonado is up to fifth and Hulkenberg goes 13th as the timing monitor spins like a fruit machine with huge improvements on soft tyres.

18 min: Teams are warned of a slippery surface at Turn 5.

19 min: As AUTOSPORT's F1 editor @eddstrawF1 notes, HRT could struggle to qualify on their current pace: "Current qualifying cutoff is 1m32.836s. Best HRT time (Pedro) - 1m33.495s."

19 min: Vergne tops the order with 1m26.493s!

19 min: Sauber finds more speed on the soft tyres with Kobayashi taking the top spot.

20 min: Massa scrapes through in 16th as the flag comes out.

06:20 Di Resta has slipped to 17th but he may just scrape through.

06:20 Raikkonen has been off track at Turn 12 and ends up 18th on his return to F1. The Finn is eliminated.

06:21 Di Resta in fact improves with his final effort and goes 16th.

06:21 @MercedesAMGF1: "Track changing very quickly at the moment"

06:21 Ricciardo and Schumacher will also be investigated for a possible incident.

06:21 Massa ends up 17th in his Ferrrari in a narrow escape for the Brazilian.

06:22 The first qualifying period has been completed and seven drivers are eliminated:

18) Raikkonen
19) Kovalainen
20) Petrov
21) Glock
22) Pic
--) de la Rosa
--) Karthikeyan.

06:22 But the big shock of first qualifying is the shock elimination of Raikkonen, with the Finn caught out on hard tyres while the rest used soft

06:23 Neither HRT driver managed to beat the 107% cut-off time and it will now be for the team to decide if it applies for leniency to the stewards.

06:23 More on the HRT front from @eddstrawF1, who reports: "Best of the HRTs almost 1.3s of the 107% rule. The team will lodge a request to be allowed to start though."

06:23 Raikkonen steps out of his Lotus and can't be happy with such an early end to his comeback qualifying hour.

06:25 Grip levels were obviously improving rapidly during that segment, with the track still rubbering in following Friday's rain.

06:25 Good insight from AUTOSPORT's @EliGP, who has cast his eye over the timesheets and reports: "If you are wondering, the biggest gap between team-mates is Grosjean and Raikkonen: 1.3 seconds"

06:26 Some big names escaped with not a lot of margin in Q1. Webber, both Force India drivers and Massa played a game of dare and came through.

06:27 Now, a new challenge faces those that remain. The 17 drivers will have just 15 minutes to try and secure a spot in the top 10 shootout.

0 min: Q2 is underway in Melbourne.

0 min: Paul di Resta is first out onto the circuit with soft tyres.

1 min: Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Senna all join the Scot on track.

2 min: Alonso and Massa join the growing on-track pack with soft tyres on the Ferraris.

2 min: Vettel and Webber head out for a run in the pair of RB8s.

2 min: Maldonado is another to get out quickly.

2 min: Hamilton joins the circuit with fresh, soft rubber on his McLaren. Team-mate Button does likewise.

3 min: The tyre sheet is a sea of yellow as Pirelli's soft compound becomes the rubber of choice for this segment.

3 min: Rosberg heads out and will be getting up to speed as 10 others come around on hot laps.

3 min: Di Resta gets the fun going with a time of 1m27.304s.

4 min: Ricciardo takes over from the Force India driver with 1m26.624s.

4 min: Hulkenberg is third and Senna puts in 1m32.365s for fourth.

4 min: Vettel now takes over at the top with 1m25.982s.

5 min: Button plans two timed laps, as team-mate Hamilton tops the first two sectors.

5 min: Alonso is off in the gravel!

5 min: Webber is into second place with a lap of 1m26.297s.

5 min: Hamilton holds on to his McLaren through the final corner to top the times in 1m25.626s.

5 min: Alonso's Ferrari remains deep in the Turn 1 gravel and the session could be over for the Spaniard.

6 min: Ricciardo and di Resta are straight back into the pits after one timed lap.

6 min: Bad news confirmed by @InsideFerrari: "Fernando finished in the gravel..."

6 min: Replays show Alonso losing the car under braking, slewing the Ferrari backwards into the gravel trap.

6 min: The session has been stopped.

6 min: Schumacher and Rosberg were just about to begin a timed lap when Alonso skated off so they had to slow down.

06:34 The red flag is out to recover Alonso's Ferrari as the driver trudges away from the stricken machine.

06:34 Disaster for Alonso, who remains fifth on the timesheet but will take no further part in the session.

06:35 8m22s remain on the stopped clock for Q2.

06:35 Hamilton leads the survivors with a time of 1m25.626s, with team-mate Button second, Vettel third and Mark Webber in fourth spot.

06:36 Alonso remains in fifth but he will drop down the list once the session restarts and further times are posted. Ricciardo is sixth.

06:36 Alonso's Ferrari is now being recovered by a tractor as the Spaniard returns to the pits on the back of a scooter.

06:36 Alonso was visibly angry with the marshals when he climbed out the F2012, and so is @InsideFerrari it seems: "He had managed to keep the engine on, waiting for the marshals who did nothing."

06:38 Alonso has kept his helmet on as he is chased by a pack of media through the paddock.

06:38 Schumacher, Rosberg, Grosjean, Kobayashi, Perez and Vergne have yet to post a time in the second segment.

06:38 The session has resumed.

6 min: Massa is straight back out to try and get his Ferrari through into Q3.

7 min: Schumacher and Rosberg are quickly out onto the circuit.

8 min: Up front, the McLaren pair will be happy with their first runs, with the pair one-two and over three tenths ahead of the Red Bull pair.

9 min: Webber heads out in the Red Bull Renault.

9 min: Grosjean is on track to try and get his Lotus into the top ten.

10 min: The Mercedes drivers are getting on with it, posting fastest sector times as they work through their first hot lap.

10 min: Massa clocks a 1m27.497s lap and is shuffled down to 10th.

10 min: Rosberg goes quickest with a lap of 1m25.469s and team-mate Schumacher moves into second with a lap of 1m25.571s.

11 min: Grosjean powers for the line in his Lotus and the result is 1m25.973s, putting him securely in Q3 in fifth overall.

12 min: Webber has cut the grass at Turn 1, but he was able to rejoin without any visible damage.

12 min: Massa clatters over the Turn 12 kerb and is currently on a slow lap. He has fallen to 12th and is facing elimination.

12 min: The Sauber pair are now making a late challenge on fresh softs.

13 min: Vettel has remained in the garage and is banking on his sixth placed time being enough to get through.

13 min: Maldonado is down in 14th but posts the fastest first sector time.

14 min: Maldonado is continuing a good pace in the middle sector as well. This could cause some headaches ...

14 min: Grosjean improves his best with 1m25.845s but remains fifth.

14 min: Maldonado makes some minor errors in the final few corners but still manages 1m26.206s to go seventh.

14 min: The flag is out on Q2.

06:46 Hulkenberg improves to ninth and that puts Ricciardo on the bubble.

06:47 Kobayashi is the man to watch as he heads for the ine in his Sauber. He goes 12th.

06:47 Di Resta is the last man that can knock Ricciardo out of the top 10 ... and he doesn't make it. The Australian is through to Q3.

06:47 Alonso finds himself 12th after his gravelly exit, while Massa is eliminated in 16th on a disastrous day for Ferrari.

06:48 The second qualifying period has been completed and seven drivers are eliminated:

11) Vergne
12) Alonso
13) Kobayashi
14) Senna
15) di Resta
16) Massa
17) Perez.

06:49 Toro Rosso gets one car through to the shootout. Vergne failed to match his team-mate's time by just 0.110s.

06:49 Long faces all round at Ferrari as the team reflect on failing to make the final segment with the troublesome F2012.

06:50 Hulkenberg beats his Force India team-mate di Resta by some seven-tenths of a second. The German got through in ninth place.

06:51 Grosjean will be delighted to make Q3, with strong pace from the GP2 champion in the Lotus.

06:52 As @eddstrawF1 attests, "We expected it to be tight and it was. If you set a time 1sec off Rosberg's fastest time in Q2, you'd have not made Q3."

06:53 Mercedes looks strong up front, with the controversial W03 working well around Albert Park this afternoon.

06:53 So here are the 10 drivers that will contest the shootout:

Nico Rosberg
Michael Schumacher
Lewis Hamilton
Jenson Button
Romain Grosjean
Sebastian Vettel
Pastor Maldonado
Mark Webber
Nico Hulkenberg
Daniel Ricciardo.

0 min: The battle for pole begins in Australia.

0 min: No immediate takers in the first few seconds of the segment ...

1 min: @OfficialSF1Team feeds back on a disappointing Q2: "@SChecoPerez with gearbox problems. @kamui_kobayashi with no time improvement in Q2. Disappointing session. Fighting back tomorrow."

1 min: Rosberg heads out with a set of soft tyres bolted onto the Mercedes.

1 min: Schumacher follows his team-mate out a few seconds later.

2 min: Hamilton and Button join the Mercedes pair on track to commence the fight for pole between the two teams.

2 min: Vettel comes out, leaving Webber still in the Red Bull garage.

2 min: Rosberg crosses the line and begins his assault on pole position.

3 min: Schumacher is fourth on the road and will cross after Rosberg and the two McLaren drivers.

3 min: Flying laps begin, with teams finally unveiling their true pace on low fuel.

3 min: Hamilton pips the Mercedes pair to the fastest first sector time.

4 min: Rosberg is round the final corners. He runs wide at the exit of Turn 14 and delivers 1m25.847s.

4 min: Watching on from his home in Brazil, @rubarrichello tweets: "the top 10 now shows who really made their homework looks like the biggest improvement came from Mercedes GP"

4 min: Hamilton clocks a fast 1m24.922s to set a strong early benchmark for McLaren.

4 min: Schumacher moves into second spot behind Hamilton with a lap of 1m25.716s.

5 min: Vettel comes round in 1m25.668s and that gets him second for the moment.

5 min: Webber has only just left the pits and it's one run for the Australian in the shootout.

5 min: Button is over eight tenths slower than the strong lap from his team-mate and is now fourth.

6 min: Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and di Resta have also yet to leave the pits.

6 min: Grosjean banks a 1m25.839s and is fifth for the moment in his Lotus.

6 min: Rosberg and Schumacher are quickly back into the pits and have been wheeled back in by the Mercedes mechanics.

7 min: Hamilton is pushed back into the McLaren garage after a very successful first run. He leads the battle for pole into the second attempts.

7 min: Webber is on soft tyres and he is now in the middle of his first effort.

7 min: Webber is three-tenths off Hamilton's first sector time.

7 min: ... and a further two-tenths shy in the second sector of the lap.

7 min: Hamilton's advantage is over seven tenths from Vettel, but more is expected from Mercedes when the pair get onto fresh rubber.

8 min: Hamilton heads out to defend his provisional pole.

8 min: Webber crosses the line and moves into second with a lap of 1m25.651s, but he is miles behind Hamilton's benchmark.

8 min: @Lotus_F1Team: "Back to to the garage for @RGrosjean Fresh set of soft tyres going on"

8 min: The two Mercedes drivers and Vettel are back out onto the track for their final attempt at Hamilton's 1m24.922s.

9 min: One minute remaining on the clock in a fascinating pole shootout.

9 min: The flag is out as the final flying laps get underway.

07:05 Rosberg locks up heavily into Turn 3 on his hot lap. That could be that for the German.

07:05 Button is the fastest man through the first sector.

07:05 Vettel is slow in the first sector. It won't happen today for the champion.

07:06 Hamilton has had a poor stat to his second attempt and could be under pressure from his team-mate.

07:06 Grosjean goes a remarkable second for Lotus!

07:06 Schumacher crosses the line and he moves into fourth with a time of 1m25.336s.

07:06 Button can't do enough, he restores the McLaren one-two but it looks good for Hamilton...

07:06 Vettel comes through and it's only sixth for the Red Bull driver.

07:06 Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for the Australian Grand Prix!

07:07 A wonderful result for the Briton and McLaren team-mate Button locks out the front row of the grid.

07:07 Hamilton abandons his final run and steps out of the car, delighted with a rapid 1m24.922s pole lap.

07:08 Grosjean is a sensational third for Lotus with Schumacher fourth with his final attempt.

07:09 Webber and Vettel will begin Red Bull's title defence from fifth and sixth on the grid. Yes, there will be cars in front of them tomorrow.

07:10 Rosberg suffered for that lock-up at Turn 3 and ended up seventh, with Maldonado eighth, Hulkenberg ninth and Ricciardo did not set a time.

07:11 An entertaining qualifying session with several big talking points. There are a few investigations so stick with AUTOSPORT throughout the day for news on the decisions from the stewards.

07:11 That's it from the Live team for now. Join us tomorrow for all the race action from Albert Park as the 2012 season kicks off.

Session length: 60 minutes
Mainly sunny High Temp: 22°C / 72°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 16 Mar Start GMT
 Friday practice one 01:25
 Friday practice two 05:25
Saturday 17 Mar
 Saturday practice 02:55
 Qualifying 05:50
Sunday 18 Mar
 The Australian Grand Prix 05:45