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LIVE COMMENTARY: F1: 2009 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX - SATURDAY PRACTICE
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Saturday Practice
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
02:45 Hello everyone and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live as practice continues for the opening round of the 2009 FIA Formula 1 World Championship - the ING Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park, Melbourne.

02:46 Today, we will guide you through the opening practice sessions with minute-by-minute commentary as the teams and drivers continue their preparations for the first race of 2009.

Final 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 decisive qualifying hour.

AUTOSPORT Live will end the day with Sunday's weather forecast, on the Australian Grand Prix weather page.

02:47 AUTOSPORT forum members are invited to join the fun throughout the weekend, offering thoughts and opinions as the event unfolds.

With so many unknowns heading in to the season, there are lots of topics to debate as the practice sessions continue.

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.

Nico Rosberg02:48 The first day of running at Albert Park produced results that suggest the formbook has been totally overturned by the shake-up in technical rules, and in particular the various designs of rear diffuser.

The three teams that are subject to an appeal, as the 'double decker' diffuser row continues, found themselves at the front of the field for much of the 180 minutes of running.

Following a slow start, the teams got down to business, running through their programmes of set-up work. Nico Rosberg set the quickest time of the first session, ahead of team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello and Heikki Kovalainen, rounding out the top five.

The second practice began with the familiar rush of early laps. Adrian Sutil and Toyota drivers Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli all enjoyed spells at the head of the list, but once again it was Williams's Nico Rosberg who set the pace with an impressive time of 1:26.053, ahead of Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello. Jarno Trulli was third for Toyota. Mark Webber produced a solid time in the Red Bull to finish fourth, having broken a driveshaft in the earlier session. Jenson Button ended the day in fifth place.

Head: F1 formbook set for shake-up

02:50 Brawn GP has announced a sponsorship deal with Richard Branson's Virgin Group at a press conference in Albert Park this morning.

The car will feature Virgin branding in time for qualifying later this afternoon.

Virgin deal confirmed

02:51 We are set for perfect weather conditions today, with abundant sunshine and little in the way of cloud cover.

A slight change in wind direction since Friday will allow warmer air into Victoria from the north. The air temperature will rise to around 25 degrees Celsius - six degrees higher than yesterday - and, with prolonged sunshine, the track temperature is expected to approach the 40 degree mark.

Bridgestone slicks02:53 Slick tyres made their return to Formula 1 yesterday and the new 'two-step' difference between the softer and harder compound options is already giving the teams a headache.

The drivers complained that they struggled to get the harder tyre up to temperature on Friday, while the soft yielded a quick opening lap but degraded rapidly over a longer run.

The teams will be hoping that today's increased temperatures and ever-increasing levels of rubber being laid on the aspahlt will help them get the best out of the tyres.

Toyota worried about tyre degradation

02:55 The third and final practice session is just five minutes away.

02:56 A sizable crowd is on hand in the sunny conditions this morning. 64,200 fans were in Albert Park for practice yesterday.

02:58 The track temperature is 35 Celsius for today's final practice.

02:58 Jenson Button climbs aboard his Brawn GP 001 machine and is strapped in ahead of the session.

03:00 The practice session is underway.

03:00 Toyota drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock are the first two to join the track today.

03:01 The drivers are pouring out onto the racetrack - 15 of them so far with Lewis Hamilton about to add to the throng.

03:02 Nico Rosberg is told on the team radio to take care of his tyres as he will need to use this set in the race.

03:02 Installation laps are now in progress. The Toyota drivers lead the pack back into pitlane.

03:04 Kimi Raikkonen is one of the final drivers to head out of the pits for his first lap of the day.

03:04 Lewis Hamilton comes back into the pits, as Rubens Barrichello comes out to check over his car.

03:06 Richard Branson is on hand in the Brawn GP garage, looking on as Jenson Button prepares to go out with Virgin logos already on his car.

03:06 Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello complete their installation lap. Jenson Button is the only driver yet to leave the pitlane.

03:06 On cue, Button leaves the garage and is now on the circuit.

03:08 Jenson brings the Brawn back into the pits. There are no cars on track.

03:09 This is an opportunity for the teams to check over their cars and check telemetry data after the single installation lap that every driver has now completed.

03:11 With so much support running on this track, it is the customary waiting game as we wait for a volunteer to go out and continue the process of laying a racing line of Forumla 1 rubber on the asphalt.

03:13 In the Red Bull garage, Sebastian Vettel watches on as the mechanics perform routine checks on his car, while Mark Webber looks much more relaxed as he sits on the tool chest, sharing some banter with his mechanics.

03:14 Lewis Hamilton moves towards his car, as Sebastien Buemi concentrates on the monitor, as he sits in the cockpit of the Toro Rosso.

03:16 Robert Kubica is another who chooses to stay in the car.

We can hear a cars on the move. Timo Glock, Nelson Piquet and Kimi Raikkonen have joined the racetrack.

03:17 Fernando Alonso also comes out, as his Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet begins the first flying lap of the day.

03:19 Nelson Piquet completes the first lap, and the time is 1:31.330.
Timo Glock follows him over the line and goes quicker - 1:31.032.

03:19 Kimi Raikkonen's first timed lap of the day is a 1:30.141, putting him quickest so far.

03:20 Fernando Alonso is next over the line and he improves on Raikkonen's time by over one second - 1:28.758.

03:21 Jenson Button is on his first timed lap and is flying in the Brawn, faster than everyone in the first two sectors of the lap ... but he loses around five seconds in the final sector, and posts the seventh quickest time so far.

03:22 Kimi Raikkonen is slowing in the Ferrari ...

03:23 Raikkonen pulls to a halt with a hydraulics problem and the Finn is out of the session.

03:23 Nico Rosberg posts the third fastest time, but Jenson Button does get a clear lap and moves to the head of the list with a 1:27.863.

03:25 Replays show Raikkonen took to the grass at Turn 11 as his Ferrari struck trouble. Marshals are still working to recover the car to a safe place.

03:25 Jenson Button leads the session so far with a time of 1:27.863, with Fernando Alonso second, Nico Rosberg third, Lewis Hamilton now fourth with a 1:28.208 and Giancarlo Fisichella in a promising fifth in the Force India.

03:26 The Williams-Toyota duo are now asserting their authority once again, as Nico Rosberg goes quickest with 1:27.782, and seconds later his team-mate Kazuki Nakajima edging that with 1:27.762.

03:27 Felipe Massa is told by engineer Rob Smedley that he should use the new in-car adjustment control for the front wing angle if he needs it.

03:27 Rubens Barrichello now moves to the top spot as he posts a 1:27.729. Williams and Brawn are holding the top four positions so far as we approach the half-hour mark.

03:28 Sebastian Vettel now takes a turn in first place, setting a 1:27.284.

The Brawn GP and Williams drivers are now back into the pits, having completed their first run of the day.

03:29 Kimi Raikkonen wanders back in to the pit lane after abandoning his broken-down Ferrari around the back of the circuit with a suspected hydraulics problem.

03:29 Heikki Kovalainen is one of the final drivers to attempt a flying lap. His effort on the harder tyre is a 1:29.336, which is only enough for 18th at the moment.

03:30 So we have Vettel leading the pack, Barrichello second, Nakajima third, Rosberg fourth, Button fifth and Lewis Hamilton in sixth place at the half-way stage.

03:30 Kovalainen improves to 13th quickest with a 1:28.307 on his next lap.

03:31 Sebastian Vettel stays out there and is going quicker again. The German is the fastest of all in the first section of the lap. He keeps the pace up by posting a fastest third sector as well, en route to a 1:27.009.

03:33 Adrian Sutil has yet to set a time today in the Force India. He is now on the racetrack and we hope he will be able to set a time very soon. His team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella is solidly in the top ten at the moment with a time of 1:28.109.

03:33 Sutil crosses the line to start his first flying lap of the day. Meantime, Jenson Button is back out there and is about to start his second run of laps.

03:35 Heikki Kovalainen continues his run and leaps up the order with his latest lap of 1:27.555, following that up with a 1:27.284 - third quickest overall.

03:36 Jenson Button goes second with 1:27.068, just a shade slower than session leader Sebastian Vettel. On his following lap the Briton tops the list with 1:26.691.

03:36 Kovalainen continued from his best lap with a quick spin in Turn 4 as the rear of the McLaren slewed out of control.

03:37 Timo Glock is on a flyer in the Toyota. A fastest first sector time helps the German on his way to second spot - 1:26.768.

03:39 Rubens Barrichello blasts across the line and he now moves to the top of the timesheet. With the help of soft tyres he posts a 1:26.689, making it a Brawn GP one-two - a sight that will no doubt be making Richard Branson very happy right now.

03:40 Barrichello does it again on his soft tyres. He lowers the bar to 1:26.489, moving two-tenths of a second clear of team-mate Jenson Button.

03:41 Lewis Hamilton sets his best lap of the session so far on the harder tyres. His 1:27.909 moves him up to 11th.

03:42 Rubens Barrichello has come back into the pits. He is top of the tree with Button second, Timo Glock in third, Sebastian Vettel fourth and back out on the circuit, Jarno Trulli up into fifth and Heikki Kovalainen in sixth spot.

03:42 Felipe Massa in the sole running Ferrari leaps up the order on the harder tyre. He was breifly third, before being demoted to fourth by Jarno Trulli's Toyota.

03:42 Jarno Trulli moves up the order from fifth to second place with a laptime of 1:26.569, just under one-tenth of a second shy of Barrichello's current benchmark.

03:44 Felipe Massa sets the fastest middle sector of the session en route to an improved time of 1:26.629, putting him up a place to third quickest.

03:44 We reported earlier that Adrian Sutil spent a lot of the early stages of the session in the pits. His first run yielded a best time of 1:27.637. That time puts the German in 10th place.

03:45 Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastian Vettel both have off-track incidents at Turn 1, missing their braking points and taking the straight-line route over the grass - and gravel in Vettel's case - to retain control of their cars.

03:47 Vettel is touring slowly back to the pits following that Turn 1 incident. He reports on the team radio that something is broken on the brakes.

He makes it back into pitlane and the Red Bull mechanics will now investigate.

03:48 Robert Kubica in the BMW finally sets an improved lap time, with a 1:27.734 putting him up to 12th.

03:49 Nico Rosberg in the Williams improves to sixth quickest with his latest effort on the harder tyre.

03:49 Timo Glock is out using the soft tyres, and takes the quickest time away from Rubens Barrichello with 1:26.410.

Barrichello now demoted to second, with Trulli third, Massa fourth and Jenson Button fifth.

03:50 With ten minutes remaining in final practice, this is the last opportunity to make a final quick run to test the car ahead of the qualifying hour.

03:51 Sebastien Buemi deserves a commendation for his performance this weekend. The Swiss debutant is currently doing well in 15th place in the Toro Rosso, only 1.6 seconds away from the front-running pace. He has completed 12 laps so far in the session.

03:51 Rubens Barrichello has rejoined the track, with soft tyres fitted to the Brawn GP entry. It will be interesting to see if he can regain the top spot in the next few minutes.

03:52 Jenson Button is also out there in the sister car ... as Rubens Barrichello runs off the track at Turn 9, onto the grass and his first attempt on this run is lost.

03:54 Jenson Button keeps his Brawn on the island and moves into first place, with a time of 1:26.184 ahead of Timo Glock.

03:54 Heikki Kovalainen clocks a 1:26.652 on the softer tyres to go sixth quickest.

03:56 Both Toyota drivers are also out there, and Jarno Trulli is flying round the Albert Park track with a fastest first sector time. He also sets the fastest third sector and posts the quickest time of the weekend - 1:25.811.

03:57 Nelson Piquet has a sizable moment as his Renault steps out of line under braking for Turn 6. The Brazilian just managed to keep the car on the road and he continues.

03:57 Jenson Button has improved in the Brawn on his latest lap, but remains in second place. 1:25.981 is 0.170 seconds shy of Jarno Trulli's benchmark.

03:57 Nick Heidfeld in the BMW moves up to fifth with a late run to 1:26.555.

03:58 Lewis Hamilton's run on the softer tyre puts him eighth, within a tenth of team-mate Kovalainen.

03:59 Felipe Massa's pre-qualifying run has put him up to fourth on the ever-changing timesheet.

03:59 Just when you thought Williams were being pegged down the order, Nico Rosberg produces a great lap in the FW31 to go fastest of all, by just 0.003s. The time is 1:25.808.

04:00 The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

04:01 Kazuki Nakajima has also moved up the order in the second Williams, to fifth place with a 1:26.078.

04:03 Nico Rosberg tops the third session in a row in the Williams-Toyota with a time of 1:25.808. Jarno Trulli is second, with Jenson Button third, Felipe Massa fourth, Kazuki Nakajima fifth in the second Williams, and Rubens Barrichello making it two Brawns in the top six.

04:04 The cars are wheeled back into the garages and the teams get to work on analysing the times and telemetry data from that dramatic late surge of fast laps on the softer tyre option.

04:09 The session report and classification is now available:

Rosberg also tops final Australia practice

04:12 What a fantastic prospect we have for qualifying later today. Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP take six of the top eight spots, and again appear to be on top.

Felipe Massa was the only 'favourite' make a serious challenge in fourth, as his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen suffered a hydraulics problem, and both McLarens finished outside the top ten.

Will we see the same a bit later and an amazing grid line-up for the opening round of the 2009 world championship? Join us again on AUTOSPORT Live at 05:45 GMT for the qualifying session to find out.

  OVERVIEW PRACTICE THREE  
Session length: 60 minutes
  CURRENT WEATHER
Sunny High Temp: 25°C / 77°F
Track: Dry
  INFOBOX
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Monday 23 Mar Start GMT
 Australian Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 27 Mar
 Friday Practice 1 01:15
 Friday Practice 2 05:15
Saturday 28 Mar
 Saturday Practice 02:45
 Qualifying 05:45
Sunday 29 Mar
 Race day at Albert Park 04:30
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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