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As it happened: Saturday - Qualifying
By Matt Beer, Jonathan Noble, Andrew van Leeuwen, Edd Straw, Ben Anderson and Scott Mitchell
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
02:30 Hello and welcome to the second part of AUTOSPORT Live's revamped, rolling coverage of the opening round of the 2014 Formula 1 season - the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

02:31 Our bigger and better Live service for this season means we can bring you much closer to the action.

That means you can expect plenty of quotes and analysis from our paddock team, in addition to the weekend's biggest stories. Which is just as well, as there is plenty to look forward to as we gear up for the first qualifying session of F1's new era.

02:33 Our trackside team members wasted little time in sinking their teeth into Friday's big talking points. But first - a recap of yesterday's action:

It was Fernando Alonso who topped the first practice session of the new season, the Ferrari man beating McLaren's Jenson Button to top spot in FP1.

But when the soft tyres went on and the track improved, it was Lewis Hamilton who led the way, recovering from a disastrous morning to lead Nico Rosberg in a dominant Mercedes one-two in the afternoon.

Hamilton on top in Melbourne practice two

02:35 We've already had some drama today. Rachael Finch (who according to Wikipedia is an "Australian beauty pageant title holder and television reporter") emerged unscathed after putting her Mazda 3 on its roof on the final lap of the Celebrity Challenge support race.

Former pro cyclist Robbie McEwan overcame ex-English Premier League footballer Brett Emerton to win the race.

02:37 It was a disastrous Friday for Caterham, with electrical and hydraulics problems plaguing Marcus Ericsson and a fuel system issue in FP1 for Kamui Kobayashi that stopped him from taking part in the second session as well.

However, the team is optimistic of a more productive day today:

"30 minutes until FP3.... both cars are ready and we have everything crossed for a better day!"

02:38 The third non-championship V8 Supercars Challenge race is coming up shortly, with the cars now being released onto the track. Shane van Gisbergen, winner of the first two races of this quadruple header, lines up on pole position ahead of Craig Lowndes, Fabian Coulthard and Michael Caruso.

02:39 After such a manic pre-season, we anticipated a hectic day of running for all the teams yesterday - and were not disappointed.

There were driver errors, big improvements, expected mechanical faults on cars that toiled throughout pre-season and shock breakages for those that had run without trouble.

We also had drivers finding their feet in a different environment to 2013, and signs that six teams could be in podium contention come tomorrow's race.

All that, plus a bit more, can be found in EDD STRAW's analysis of the main storylines from the first day of action in Oz.

Ten things we learned on Friday

02:42 If today's sessions don't sway you, perhaps those points from STRAW could be the tipping point for your Castrol Edge Grand Prix Predictor choices?

Speaking of predictions, maybe you'll find inspiration in AUTOSPORT's attempt to guess this year's top 10 championship order.

02:43 Marussia makes its plan for third practice - which starts in just over 15 minutes - perfectly clear:

"Our plan for #FP3? Fully focused on preparing for qualifying and maximising the power unit."

02:45 Friday running is rarely, if ever, a guarantee of what's to come, but yesterday's sessions did indicate what could be the situation in qualifying.

Even more importantly, the longer runs in FP2 gave us a good insight into what we might see in tomorrow's race.

As expected, Mercedes led the early running. But who'd have banked on Red Bull emerging as its closest threat? Vettel certainly didn't, but that's how EDD STRAW and GARY ANDERSON read the situation after Friday:

Form guide: Red Bull back in the game

02:48 If the driver line-up tweaks are still catching you out - and AUTOSPORT Live doesn't blame you for that, as it's still only day two of the new season - then we've got just the thing for you.

Our comprehensive grid guide runs through all the teams and drivers, which should get you up to speed in time for qualifying.

AUTOSPORT's 2014 F1 grid guide

02:54 The aforementioned problems that hit Caterham yesterday were not specific to the team in green - Lotus failed to trouble the timesheets (especially with Pastor Maldonado) and while Toro Rosso racked up the laps, their drivers struggled with the new brake-by-wire system.

We'd be surprised if the prediction by some that few teams will run for fear of hurting the car pre-qualifying comes true. Toro Rosso may opt not to risk any qualifying-hampering offs (Kvyat and Vergne had many trips off the road in practice yesterday), and some teams might just plan fail to get out...but surely running is too valuable at this stage.

02:56 Not exactly clear blue skies in Melbourne for the start of FP3, which is just five minutes away now.

There's plenty of cloud overhead, and wind around too, with a serious threat of rain later just to add a bit more unpredictability into the mix.

All the more reason to bank as much track time as possible in now.

02:58 With a few spots of rain in the Albert Park paddock on Saturday morning, and a larger downpour still predicted for race day, there has been plenty of debate ahead of the season about how well-prepared teams are for some wet running.

Following the official wet weather track day in Jerez (and who can forget the comedy tractor that was used to soak the track), teams only really got a vague idea about the performance of the intermediates.

But although a fully wet qualifying or race would be a step into the unknown for a lot of teams, Pirelli is confident teams will not face too much trouble.

Paul Hembery, its motor sport director, said about the lack of proper wet running so far: “We did a lot of work previous on the full wet tyre, and certainly what we saw on the testing that we did with the previous generation of cars it is a very substantial improvement on aquaplaning and grip, trying to close the gap to the intermediate.

“We would have loved to have a Paul Ricard-dedicated wet session for everybody, probably less for us but more for everyone else to understand what it means with the type of delivery we have got, the power delivery we have got.

“But everyone is up against the clock and that was never going to be realistic. Hopefully we will get some rain over the first few races."

03:00 Plenty of drivers strapped in, and the session is underway.

03:00 Vergne is first out in the Toro Rosso. Brake-by-wire refinement on the agenda for the team.

03:02 Loads of drivers hit the track - in fact, only Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Perez and Hamilton don't leave the pits.

03:02 And a practice start for each of Rosberg and Magnussen at the end of the pitlane as they join the fun.

03:03 Installation laps done, the cars return to their garages almost as swiftly as they left.

03:04 Hamilton, Perez and Ricciardo head out.

03:06 Only Vettel and Raikkonen stay tucked away in their respective garages then. Though there's no threat of a timed lap just yet.

03:07 Ricciardo proves us wrong by continuing onto a second lap.

03:08 This is not exactly a flat-out lap from the Australian though. Team-mate Vettel joins him on the track.

03:09 Vergne is back out, as are Gutierrez and Magnussen.

Ricciardo pits, but the rain clouds look ominous. Is it now or never for some dry running?

03:10 Ericsson, Kvyat and Button leave their garages.

03:11 Gutierrez showing up as travelling quite slowly on track at the moment.

03:12 "Something with the gearbox" Gutierrez tells the team over the radio as he slowly cruises along.

03:12 Doesn't seem like he'll make it back to the Sauber pit.

03:12 First times of the day. Magnussen is top on 1m33.130s, 2.375s faster than Vergne.

03:13 But through comes Kvyat to knock the McLaren off top spot with a 1m33.079s.

03:14 Magnussen pushing very hard to regain P1 and flies across the gravel at Turn 9. He carries on OK.

03:14 And Button follows suit by running wide at Turn 9 too.

03:15 Now the other McLaren takes a trip across the grass at Turn 9 as well! Button also recovers without issue.

03:15 Kobayashi and Ericcson immediately make Saturday a better day for Caterham with three and five laps on the board respectively.

03:16 Button shows there's no major issue with the McLaren despite that trip over the grass, going 0.001s quicker than Kvyat to go fastest on a 1m32.604s.

03:17 Hamilton goes 0.8s quicker than Button to comfortably go P1 on a 1m31.376s.

03:18 But then Rosberg in the other Mercedes is 0.153s quicker than Hamilton!

The benchmark immediately changes to 1m31.583s.

03:19 Gutierrez is out for the session. That gearbox issue won't be fixed before qualifying.

03:20 Wild trip across the grass on the exit of Turn 11/12 for Maldonado, but at least he's "racking" up the laps. That's five now for the Lotus man, who is 10th, 4.025s off the pace set by Rosberg.

03:20 Speaking of Rosberg, both he and Hamilton are flying on this lap. The latter especially so.

03:20 Rosberg backs off in the middle sector. Button complains over the radio that he's "struggling with the rear".

03:21 Hamilton reclaims top spot with a 1m30.919s.

03:21 Bizarre issue for Rosberg, who looks like he's collected a bit of debris in the cockpit...weird one, but explains his slow middle sector.

03:22 The circuit is very busy at the moment. Still no time for seven cars though.

03:22 Rosberg discards something from the cockpit of his Mercedes around the back of the circuit, prompting puzzled looks from Niki Lauda in the pits and much hilarity in the media centre. Perhaps Nico finished his lunch late?

03:24 Romain Grosjean reports that his Lotus engine is misfiring.

03:26 Marcus Ericsson is the next driver to take a trip through the gravel after a lock-up, but manages to get back on track without any problem.

03:27 "The tyres are finished" says Rosberg over the team radio.

03:28 And he immediately pits.

03:29 Fernando Alonso sets Ferrari's first time of the day, going 12th fastest with a 1m33.577s.

03:30 Still no time on the board for Romain Grosjean, whose Lotus team was one of two to break curfew this morning.

Both Lotus and Marussia used one of their six 'jokers' to work late in order to prepare their cars for FP3. BEN ANDERSON has the full story.

Lotus, Marussia break curfew in Oz

03:30 Alonso continues in the Ferrari. Both he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen struggled with the F14 T's braking by wire system yesterday, particularly the Finn, so it will be key for the Scuderia to get its drivers more comfortable ready for qualifying.

03:31 As if to confirm those struggles, Raikkonen locks up and takes a trip across the grass in his car.

03:31 Alonso and Vettel are the only drivers still on track. The session is already passed the halfway mark.

03:32 Raikkonen joins team-mate Alonso on track as the Spaniard leaps to fourth overall, though some 1.257s slower than Hamilton's best.

03:35 Vettel pits - but not before correcting his own team over which torque map he is using.

A few more cars on track now, including Maldonado's Lotus.

03:36 With 25 minutes to go, this is the top five: 1 Hamilton; 2 Rosberg; 3 Massa; 4 Alonso; 5 Vettel.

03:37 Massa's looking to improve on third. He's out, and pushing, but he'll do well to topple the Mercedes stranglehold.

03:38 "You have to be more precise telling me which button to use", says Kimi over the radio. He sounds a little frustrated.

03:39 Bottas done for the session. Team will face a race against time to get his Williams ready in time for qualifying. As Romain Grosjean said on Thursday, a problem in FP3 is the worst timing possible with these complicated new F1 cars.

03:39 Hulkenberg flies to second quickest on a 1m30.978s. He was quickest of anyone in the first two sectors but fell 0.059s short of Hamilton's session-topping time.

That was on the soft tyre, before you get too excited.

03:40 This could be interesting. Maldonado is also on the soft tyre. Might we see something of a representative time for the E22?

03:41 "The car is all over the place. It's so bad", reports Adrian Sutil The team advises he heads back to the pits for a set-up change.

03:41 The Mercs switch to the soft tyre. This could be when we find out just how quick those cars are.

03:43 Big change for F1 2014, but some things are always the same. We have 19 drivers with times to their name, and the bottom four of those are from Caterham and Marussia.

03:43 New fastest lap imminent for Rosberg?

03:44 It is. Rosberg goes P1 on a 1m29.375s. He gained 2s on the soft.

03:44 Hamilton goes quickest of anyone in the first sector but his middle sector is slow.

03:44 Button pops up into second in the McLaren, but he's 1.3s off Rosberg's time.

03:46 "Nothing is solved" according to Romain Grosjean, who sounds a touch angry as he reports the status of his Renault engine's misfire over the radio.

03:47 We're pretty sure that time from Button was on softs as well, so McLaren is 1.3s slower than Mercedes on raw pace...

...that's very ominous indeed.

03:47 Magnussen confirms that Mercedes is just too quick. The McLaren rookie improves to sixth, but is 2.1s behind Rosberg.

03:48 Alonso jumps up to third on his soft-tyre run, 1.5s behind the leading Mercedes.

03:49 "Still struggling with fronts" reports Daniel Ricciardo over the radio. The Aussie is currently sixth fastest.

03:50 Despite the pre-session fears that teams would steer clear of the track to preserve their cars, we only have a trio of drivers on single figures for laps completed.

Two of those are out with mechanical woes (Bottas and Gutierrez) and the other is driving a Lotus (Grosjean).

03:50 Maldonado's switch to the soft tyre, by the way, didn't yield anything of note. Perhaps it was just set-up work, but the Venezuelan is 5.3s off the pace in 15th.

03:51 It's been a productive FP3 for Caterham. Kobayashi and Ericsson are 6.077s and 9.426s off the pace respectively, but the former is quicker than Chilton and only a few hundredths slower than Bianchi.

Not bad given their minimum mileage.

03:52 Raikkonen is seventh quickest in the Ferrari but is very much struggling to keep it totally planted on the road.

03:52 Vettel, down in 10th, is winding up for a soft-tyre run.

03:53 Now Kevin Magunssen is saying that he is struggling with tyres. Seems to he becoming a bit of a theme as the session wears on.

03:54 In better news for Magnussen, he has been the busiest man of the day and has 19 laps to his name.

03:54 Scruffy lap for Vettel who backs off in the final sector and doesn't improve on 10th.

03:55 Ericsson has improved in the Caterham to leapfrog Chilton. That's 32 laps between the Team Green cars now, but both are still 6s off the pace.

Well, off Mercedes's pace. That's 4.5s off the rest of the field, mind. More respectable.

03:57 Perez goes ninth quickest. He is one of a few drivers improving as the session reaches its conclusion.

03:57 Windy conditions here in Melbourne are making things very difficult for the drivers as they try to complete qualifying runs late in this session. Hence we're seeing lots of corrective steering and wild moments.

03:58 "The car doesn't accelerate" says Vettel. Appears he and Red Bull were trying a new setting.

03:59 Kobayashi gives Caterham more reason to celebrate - he's jumped ahead of Maldonado to go 16th, 5.0s off Rosberg's session benchmark.

Bianchi leads the way in that Marussia-Caterham battle though. The Frenchman is an excellent 14th, ahead of Sutil. Team-mate Chilton has just moved ahead of Maldonado to go 17th.

04:00 Trouble for Maldonado. He's stopped on circuit and is walking away from his Lotus.

04:00 Button takes a trip across the grass at Turn 9.

04:01 The chequered flag comes out. Session over.

04:04 A little bit of news, Bottas will go into qualifying with a penalty for a gearbox change.

04:06 Australian Grand Prix FP3 results:

1 Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m29.375s
2 Button (McLaren) +1.391s
3 Alonso (Ferrari) +1.501s
4 Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.544s
5 Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1.595s
6 Hulkenberg (Force India) +1.603s
7 Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.781s
8 Magnussen (McLaren) +1.876s
9 Perez (Force India) +2.290s
10 Massa (Williams) +2.348s

04:16 In terms of running, it was Marcus Ericsson who led the way with 21 laps. Massa and Button both completed 20, while at the other end of the scale Bottas and Gutierrez completed just two laps each, Grosjean the next worst with four.

04:19 The grid is now lining up for the third non-championship V8 Supercars Challenge race. Shane van Gisbergen, winner of the first two races, is on pole position ahead of Craig Lowndes, Fabian Coulthard and Michael Caruso.

04:23 Despite its non-championship status, points are being awarded for this V8 quadruple-header , with an overall event winner being declared. To spice things up, organisers have made tomorrow's finale an F1-style double points race.

04:31 Free practice three report is now online:

Rosberg dominates final practice in Melbourne

04:33 The V8 Supercars race is underway and is already under safety car. Dale Wood's Holden is stricken after t-boning Chaz Mostert's Ford, which spun after contact with another car.

04:33 Van Gisbergen leads from Lowndes, Coulthard, Bright, Caruso and McLaughlin under the safety car.

04:39 Racing back underway in the V8s. Van Gisbergen retains the lead at the restart with Lowndes holding off Coulthard.

04:41 And Lowndes down to third behind Coulthard after a brief excursion. Now having to hold off pretty much the whole field, which is trying to pass him for third.

04:49 Van Gisbergen has this race in his pocket. Only has a gap of just over a second to Coulthard, but all looks completely under control with eight laps gone.

04:54 F1 drivers are concerned that saving fuel may cause accidents this season. Full story online:

Formula 1 drivers raise safety concerns over fuel saving methods

04:56 A few spots of rain starting to fall late in the V8 race. Could be a dramatic finish in the battle for second between Coulthard and Lowndes.

04:58 And Van Gisbergen makes it three out of three at Albert Park in the non-championship V8 Supercars Challenge ahead of Coulthard, Lowndes, McLaughlin, Tander and Caruso.

05:07 Less than an hour to go until qualifying, which means not much time to get your Castrol GP

Mercedes has dominated so far, but are you confident enough to go for a one-two? Time's running out to decide.

05:22 BEN ANDERSON back from a paddock walk: "Blustery scenes in the paddock in Melbourne as the teams frantically re-prep their cars for qualifying.

"Spied Mercedes chief Toto Wolff in deep conservation with Toyota factory sportscar racer and ex-F1 man Alex Wurz, who is probably here on TV duties."

05:23 Here's the confirmation that Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez have been hit with five-place grid penalties for their gearbox changes.

05:29 Half an hour until qualifying, and there are still some question marks over the weather. There is some rain about on the radar, we'll have to wait and see if it actually hits the circuit.

05:37 With a bit of time to kill before the start of the first qualifying session of F1's new era, how about a look at just how different this year is?

DIETER RENCKEN looks at how the sport has been shaken up during the winter. You've got just over 20 minutes, which should be enough time to take a look.

The changes that shook up F1

05:38 Spoiler alert: Though that picture may suggest otherwise, one of the changes is not for F1 to incorporate a rallycross element.

One member of AUTOSPORT Live can only dream of such an eventuality.

05:39 JONATHAN NOBLE has just back from a paddock walk and the threat of immediate rain appears to have gone. But it is windy - very windy.

The gusts could have a big impact on qualifying - especially with drivers already struggling with their braking points this weekend.

05:40 The conditions have made the cars very difficult to drive today, leading many drivers to create their own rallycross element to the Australian GP.

05:42 Excitement is mounting ahead of qualifying - as we start to get some proper answers on pace. We may well see a changing of the guard in F1 - as Mercedes takes over from Red Bull as the team to beat.

05:45 Red Bull boss Christian Horner was having a quick chat over the fence with next door neighbours Mercedes chiefs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda just now - before the Australian Air Force jet stopped the paddock in its tracks.

05:51 The pitlane is open. Less than 10 minutes to go until the first qualifying session of a new era for Formula 1.

05:51 Lots of questions to be answered in this session, namely - is Mercedes' advantage as big as it looks?

05:54 Vettel listening to music with his eyes closed ahead of the session. Getting himself keyed up ready for business.

05:56 Some of the big things to look out for in this session then:

* How will Ricciardo fare on Red Bull qualifying debut alongside four-time world champion Vettel?

* Are the McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams drivers going to be blown away by Mercedes' dominant duo?

* What about the rookies? Magnussen versus Button will be a key watch, as will the progress of Ericsson and Kvyat respectively.

05:59 Queue at the end of the pitlane, headed by the Mercedes drivers.

06:00 Green flag, here we go. The first qualifying of F1's brave new world begins.

06:01 The difference between the soft and the medium compound Pirellis is massive in terms of peak, fresh rubber, laptime.

That will be significant in qualifying, although the extra set of soft rubber that those who make Q3 can use will mean that there is less of a premium on not using softs where possible.

Still worth doing when you can though, as the soft will be the tyre of choice in the race.

06:01 Nearly all the drivers head out immediately and we have a packed Albert Park as the session begins.

06:02 Speaking of tyres, there seems to be quite a split in choice for Q1.

06:03 Only Vettel remains in the garage, we have 21 cars on circuit.

06:03 One of the Toro Rossos was sparking heavily from the right-rear as it came across the start/finish line.

06:03 Massa, on the soft tyre, is quicker than Hamilton on this lap. But that's it. And he's slower in the middle sector.

06:03 First time on the board - Hamilton stops the clock at 1m31.699s.

06:04 Massa comes through a pips the Mercedes man, 1m31.549s on the soft tyre.

06:04 Necessary to get timed laps on the board early as a rain storm is currently headed for Melbourne.

06:05 Kevin Magnussen currently sits second fastest after his first effort.

06:05 The rookie had gone top briefly but Ricciardo knocks the McLaren off top spot immediately, pipping him by 0.174s. 1m30.775s is the new benchmark.

06:06 Vettel biffs the wall slightly on the exit of Turn 10 but continues undeterred.

06:07 After the first flurry of runs, Ricciardo leads Magnussen; Massa; Button; Bottas; Hamilton; Vettel; Raikkonen; Rosberg and Vergne.

06:08 In the drop zone are Bianchi; Gutierrez; Ericcson; Grosjean; Sutil and Maldonado.

06:08 Romain Grosjean's frustrations continue as he has a brief off in the Lotus. He's currently 20th fastest.

06:08 Hamilton's quickest of anyone in the first sector but his second sector is somewhat sluggish.

06:09 Sutil's first proper lap gets him well clear of the drop zone and up to 11th.

06:09 Vettel's on a much smoother lap this time and should improve on seventh.

06:09 Alonso has a small lock-up on the way into Turn 1 as he starts a flyer. Seems to have got away with it... just.

06:10 Gutierrez errs at Turn 9, but continues. He's 19th at the moment.

06:10 Rain jackets going on in the grandstands opposite the pits. Rain on its way...

06:11 Vettel improves his time, but not position on that lap.

06:11 Fourth fastest for Alonso, with a 1m31.388s lap.

06:11 If the rain falls and this is how it ends up, Kobayashi would take Caterham into Q2.

06:12 Pastor Maldonado has an off, spinning on the exit of Turn 3. Things not going well for Lotus.

06:12 Looks like only the Mercedes drivers are confident enough to not require a soft tyre run.

06:13 It's definitely, definitely raining a lot harder now.

06:13 And that sends everyone scurrying and sliding back into the pits.

06:13 Four minutes remaining and this has mixed things up very nicely.

06:14 Grosjean is asked by the team to speed up. He tells them it's not possible in these conditions.

06:14 That's likely the order set for Q1 now. both Lotus drivers were in the drop zone and struggling to improve on slicks on a slick track.

06:14 In the drop zone are both Marussias, Gutierrez, Ericsson and the two Lotus drivers. Grosjean and Maldonado will not occupy both places on the back row of the grid though, thanks to Gutierrez's grid penalty.

Scant consolation for the Enstone squad.

06:15 That means Kamui Kobayashi will progress to Q2 - unless there's a substantial change in conditions in the next three minutes (and a drying of the track to match).

06:15 Considering the weekend Caterham has had, all credit both to team and to driver Kobayashi for making Q2. He was the last to make the cut, pipping Max Chilton by just 19 thousandths of a second.

06:16 Gutierrez has left the pits on intermediate tyres. At least he'll get some data, if nothing else.

06:17 He's warned to be careful by his team, it's "a balance check for tomorrow".

06:18 Also worth noting that Daniil Kvyat, in his first F1 qualifying session, made it through to Q2 relatively comfortably in circumstances that could easily have caught him out.

06:19 The other rookie, Ericsson, ended up 20th - but only three tenths off Bianchi in the Marussia. A respectable effort given his troubled Friday.

06:19 Official end of Q1 as the chequered flag falls.

06:20 Eliminated from qualifying at the first hurdle:

17 Chilton (Marussia)
18 Bianchi (Marussia)
19 Gutierrez (Sauber)*
20 Ericsson (Caterham)
21 Grosjean (Lotus)
22 Maldonado (Lotus)

*Gutierrez will start last with his gearbox penalty applied.

06:22 Grosjean seems quite jovial after that disastrous session. Disbelief, perhaps?

06:22 At the other end of the timesheet, Ricciardo tops his first qualifying segment as a Red Bull driver. Kevin Magnussen was second and Felipe Massa third.

What odds would you get for that being the top three after the final part of qualifying?

06:24 No hugely significant scalps in Q1 - Lotus's woes were apparent already, so it was more of a confirmation of the expected troubles rather than anything surprising.

Q2, however, could be a different story. This is going to be a very, very tight session.

06:24 Meanwhile it was a reasonably quiet first session for Force India. Both Hulkenberg and Perez through, finishing 14th and 15th respectively.

06:25 The second session begins.

06:25 Bottas leads the wet-shod cars out of the pitlane and onto a drenched track.

06:26 Kobayashi was warned to expect similar conditions as the end of Q1, despite the rain easing. He's on full wets.

06:26 Bottas slithers off the road at Turn 9. That's been a pain for a lot of drivers this weekend.

06:27 Despite that off, he begins his first flying lap.

06:27 No hesitation from anyone, with every driver leaving their garage immediately.

06:28 Unsurprisingly, this is a cautious effort from Bottas. Behind him, Massa is a second quicker through the first sector.

06:28 Intermediate tyres for all except Kvyat and Kobayashi, on full wets.

06:29 Bottas posts a 1m47.881s but Massa comes through and immediately knocks him back to second with a 1m47.160s.

06:29 And now Rosberg overhauls the Williams with a stunning final sector to go 0.45s quicker on a 1m46.708s.

06:30 Ricciardo continues his strong start to qualifying by going faster still, shading Rosberg by 0.062s with a 1m46.646s.

06:30 Alonso on track to go fastest...

06:31 Unsurprisingly, the times are tumbling. Bottas returns to P1 on a 1m45.689s on his second flying lap.

He promptly runs wide at Turn 1.

06:31 Alonso ends up second, behind Bottas.

06:32 Bottas actually spun through Turn 1. As he faces the wrong way, Ricciardo goes quickest - by 0.034s.

06:32 Bottas gets going again. The timesheets are filled with green and purple. Drivers finding extra speed all the time as the track dries.

06:32 Magnussen is currently just outside the drop zone in 11th. Still has plenty of time to improve.

06:33 Now Mercedes leap to the top. Hamilton knocks Alonso out of P1 with a 1m44.662s, and Rosberg comes through to make it a one-two, 0.276s slower than his team-mate.

06:33 Ricciardo then splits the Mercs, and falls just 0.007s short of Hamilton's benchmark.

06:34 Kvyat and Kobayashi have realised the full wet option was a mistake, and are now on the intermediate tyre.

06:36 As Hamilton pits, Ricciardo goes fastest. He beats Button by 0.406s (briefly P1) with a 1m44.031s. He'll likely switch to a new set of inters, but has just improved his first sector time so may finish the lap.

06:36 Button jumps to second, four-tenths behind Ricciardo. His team-mate Magnussen is now up to eighth.

06:36 There's a chance for the strategists on the pit-wall to help their cars through to Q3 here. The track conditions are improving so if you can be among the last cars across the line, should have the best of the grip. All about positioning.

06:36 To underline that, Kvyat is quickest in sector one...

06:37 Non-stop here, we said it'd be hectic. Massa shoots into second on a 1m44.385s.

06:37 Looks like the rain is threatening to return. A few spots in the paddock.

06:37 Bottas comes through and goes quickest of all, first under 1m44s with a 1m43.852s.

06:38 Lots of improvements imminent so this could be futile, but at the moment in the drop zone are: Magnussen; Raikkonen; Vettel; Perez; Sutil and Kobayashi.

06:38 Alonso back on top. A 1m42.805s.

06:39 Ricciardo usurps him immediately. 1m42.681s.

06:39 Now Rosberg goes fastest, on a 1m42.264s.

06:40 Raikkonen is in the wall!

06:40 Vergne, Magnussen, Sutil, Kobayashi, VETTEL and Perez in the drop zone.

06:40 Will Vettel, on a personal best, be OK if he improves? He has a lurid slide through Turns 11/12.

06:41 Vettel's only 12th!

06:41 Chequered flag, that's it. Vettel's out in Q2!

06:41 Magnussen, meanwhile, barged his way into Q3 with the fifth best time right at the end.

06:43 Eliminated from Q2:

11 Button (McLaren)
12 Raikkonen (Ferrari)
13 Vettel (Red Bull)
14 Sutil (Sauber)
15 Kobayashi (Caterham)
16 Perez (Force India)

06:43 Back to Raikkonen, he seemed to use a bit too much throttle on the way out of Turn 3. Ended up nudging the wall.

06:43 Well, that certainly delivered a few more high-profile scalps. Breathless qualifying session with a few star performances.

06:45 Ricciardo in particular, with the second fastest time just 0.031s slower than Rosberg at the front, will be delighted with that effort - not least because of Vettel's elimination.

The crowd went mad when that happened. It's not nice to hear a driver jeered, but it's not quite as malicious as that - this is F1 turned on its head.

06:46 Both Williams drivers came through that chaos to get into Q3. Bottas and Massa ended up eighth and ninth, but will be optimistic of a strong starting position tomorrow (though the Finn has a grid penalty coming his way remember).

06:47 This is the full list of Q3 runners then:

Rosberg; Ricciardo; Alonso; Hamilton; Magnussen; Hulkenberg; Vergne; Bottas; Massa and Kvyat.

06:48 Green light, here we go! Q3 is underway.

06:48 Really impressive performance from Daniil Kvyat in making Q3 on his F1 debut. Circumstances helped him, but he kept his head admirably.

06:48 Straight out is Nico Rosberg, with Ricciardo damp on his heels.

06:49 Rosberg is told over the radio that everyone's on full wets except Alonso on inters.

06:52 The first time of Q3 is a 1m45.550s from Rosberg.

06:52 Hamilton slots into second behind his team-mate. Ricciardo is sixth and Alonso seventh after the first run.

06:53 Alonso on the intermediate tyre is 3.020s off the pace.

06:53 Hulkenberg currently the best of the non-Mercs in third.

06:53 This could be very close between the Mercs and Ricciardo. The latter is flying in the middle sector.

06:53 Time to switch to inters? Ricciardo says he thinks "it will be if we keep running".

06:54 Hamilton goes top, 1m45.335s, as Rosberg pits.

06:55 Ricciardo is 0.7s behind Hamilton's benchmark. He flies through the first sector, quicker than anyone else, but looks set to pit.

06:55 The switch to intermediate tyres begins (with the exception of Alonso and Massa, who are already out there on it).

Hamilton leads Rosberg; Ricciardo; Hulkenberg; Vergne; Kvyat; Magnussen; Bottas; Alonso and Massa.

06:56 Hamilton goes for full wets! Ricciardo is on inters. Which will prove the right call?

06:56 Looks like Alonso has switched to wets...

06:57 Fresh inters for Hulkenberg.

06:57 Rosberg's out there already and goes faster than anyone so far in the first sector - but slithers off at Turn 9!

06:57 Massa on inters sets a personal best in sector one, but it's 1.5s off Rosberg's best through there.

06:58 Spectacular shots of Massa on the run through to Turns 11/12, with the Williams moving all over the place.

06:58 Just over a minute to go. Will it be all change?

06:59 Rosberg is absolutely flying - purple in both the first two sectors...

06:59 Magnussen improves to third fastest. Impressive work from the rookie.

07:00 Ricciardo goes quickest! 1m45.314s.

07:00 Hamilton takes it back, 1m44.762s.

07:00 Rosberg now goes quickest! He nicks it by 0.167s from Hamilton. Hamilton has another lap in the bag, so too Ricciardo.

07:01 Ricciardo's on a personal best and Hamilton flies through sector one. The middle sector is unspectacular. This is very close.

07:01 Kvyat had a little kiss with the wall then on the run to Turn 9.

07:01 Alonso goes fifth.

07:01 Ricciardo goes provisional pole! 1m44.548s.

07:01 Hamilton steals it! He's 0.317s quicker, 1m44.231s. Amazing stuff. Cheers from the fans - they love this, even if their boy loses out.

07:02 No more improvements, that's how it stands. Spectacular conclusion to a fantastic first qualifying session of Formula 1 2014.

07:04 Australian Grand Prix Q3 result:

1 Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 Ricciardo (Red Bull)
3 Rosberg (Mercedes)
4 Magnussen (McLaren)
5 Alonso (Ferrari)
6 Vergne (Toro Rosso)
7 Hulkenberg (Force India)
8 Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
9 Massa (Williams)
10 Bottas (Williams)*

* Five-place grid penalty to be applied

07:06 So many things to pick out from that qualifying session. Where do you begin? In the briefest possible way, we have:

* Hamilton takes the first pole of F1's new era
* Ricciardo clinches maiden front row start for Red Bull debut
* Magnussen, Kvyat will start their first race in F1 fourth and eighth

07:14 So, starting from the bottom - quite literally - and that awful session for Lotus.

Their cars qualified 21st and 22nd, but will avoid the ignominy of filling the back row with Grosjean inheriting 20th thanks to Gutierrez's grid penalty.

Maldonado, who will start last, is refusing to be too downbeat though.

"It is quite difficult but it is what we have at the moment, we need to work harder than before we knew it was quite difficult especially from the beginning of the weekend.

"We need to work harder to resolve all the problems around the engine; we are waiting for Renault answers. They have been working hard in the last few weeks but it seems it is not enough for us.

"We need to wait. For sure in the future we will have some good news and good results."

07:22 Here's the report from that breathless session. Lewis Hamilton claimed the first pole position of 2014, Sebastian Vettel failed to get out of Q2 and two of the three rookies starred:

Hamilton denies Ricciardo Melbourne pole

07:23 Sebastian Vettel says he is confused about his lack of pace in qualifying, after being dumped out of Q2.

"There is not much I can do now. It's disappointing as the car seemed to be very good yesterday. The car seems to have potential, Daniel is showing that.

"I was struggling a bit more with intermediate and wet conditions. I struggled with the driveability – for some reason we lost [speed] overnight and we need to understand why that was."

The reigning world champion will start 13th, 11 spots behind his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Nigel Mansell Adelaide 199407:26 In claiming pole position, Hamilton has joined Nigel Mansell on 32 career Formula 1 poles.

The two Brits now share sixth on the all-time list. Our Nige's 32nd pole also came in Australia - at a wet Adelaide in '94. He went on to claim his final grand prix victory the next day.


07:28 While Hamilton was left celebrating, fellow Brit Jenson Button just missed the cut for Q3.

He'll start 11th, and was a driver who failed to get a clean final lap in - not helped by Raikkonen's yellow flag-inducing shunt.

That's left him in a pretty foul mood.

"In the wet the car was working fine. But when I came in and put tyres on at the end it was so difficult to get a lap in.

"The car was working really well in the wet, I was very happy with the pace. [It was] quickest in wet conditions, which we expected. But at the end the yellow flags hurt us and ruined any chance of getting a lap in.

"I'm too annoyed about qualifying [to think about the race]."

07:30 According to polesitter Lewis Hamilton, the choice between full wets and inters in Q3 was an incredibly difficult one to make.

"It's very difficult to know what the turnover point is, do you take the risk or not? Daniel did a really good job on inters, and it was a close call between the two.

"I am really happy with the job the team did, and these new cars are a lot harder to drive in the wet. It was hard to drive, a serious task and a challenge today."

07:31 Fourth on the grid for his F1 debut is an amazing start for Kevin Magnussen. He's got the F1 platitudes nailed already, praising his McLaren team for its fantastic preparation etc - and noting that he's pretty proud of himself too.

Can he get on the podium tomorrow?

"I'll do the best I can. To be on the podium would be amazing. If it's dry, that's not what we have the pace for at the moment.

"But if it's wet, anything can happen..."

07:36 Nico Rosberg is already looking ahead to tomorrow, and with the weather likely to be a bit drier, he says fuel consumption will definitely be in play.

"Of course it will be a completely different to today. There is a small chance of rain tomorrow, but more likely it will be dry.

"It will be totally different, especially as Melbourne is the most difficult track for fuel consumption. It will be difficult to save enough fuel. It will be a big challenge."

07:38 Those Q3 heroics from the likes of Ricciardo, Kvyat and Magnussen have detracted attention from a Q1 star - Kamui Kobayashi.

Fortunately, the ever-reserved Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has (in a rather broken way) expressed his delight via Twitter.

We've helped make it a bit more understandable, but we get why Fernandes would be too excited to type properly - getting a Caterham into Q2 is a great feat, especially given the difficult start to 2014 the team endured:

"Well done @kamui_kobayashi. Your spirit, determination and can-do is a lesson for all of us."

07:43 Kevin Magnussen has a much better view from his grid spot than his Dad Jan did when his F1 career began here in Melbourne with the Stewart team in 1997.

Jan qualified 19th, 1.5s and eight places down on his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, though he got as high as ninth in the race before having to park with suspension problems.

Melbourne 1997The picture shows Magnussen going wheel to wheel with Jarno Trulli, Shinji Nakano and Jos Verstappen at the start.

Verstappen, of course, later ousted Magnussen from Stewart halfway through 1998, ending the Dane's F1 career.

But he's gone on to be a highly-successful sportscar star and is racing for Corvette at the Sebring 12 Hours this weekend, where he and team-mates Ryan Briscoe and Antonio Garcia will start fifth in GTLM later today.

07:47 Shock images from that qualifying reveal a rarely-seen side of Daniel Ricciardo - he's smiling.

Maybe it's because he's beaten Vettel on his Red Bull qualifying debut. Maybe it's because he's on the front row for the first time in his F1 career. Maybe it's because he came within a whisker of a shock pole at his home grand prix.

Joking aside, that was a star performance from Ricciardo, who is as delighted as you'd expect from a man who never stops grinning.

"It was exciting. It was the first time e had really driven these cars on the limit in wet conditions. "It was tricky but at the same time a lot of fun, and nice to be always up there.

"I don’t know what his [Vettel's] issues were. For now I am happy for me to be at least up here and for the team to have a front row start. It wasn’t looking like this a few weeks ago, so I am pretty pleased right now."

07:51 Ricciardo's former Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, himself a cracking sixth in qualifying, has tipped his hat to the Aussie after his front row effort.

"Congrats to my mate @danielricciardo for this 2nd position. You ll have a great view on the grid tomorrow ;) #norearwing"

07:51 Lotus has confirmed that its disastrous day was down to technical problems, with Maldonado's car hit by an issue with its power unit, and Grosjean suffering mapping problems that affected braking.

Daniil Kvyat07:57 We've got two rookies in the top 10 today, with Daniil Kvyat qualifying his Toro Rosso eighth.

He admitted that the emotions were "quite big", adding "we wouldn't have expected this two months ago".

Kvyat took that position despite spinning into the wall on the fast back straight kink on his final Q3 lap. He admitted he still needed to learn the track a bit better, having been caught out on the slippery white line.

He actually did well not to damage the car more substantially, catching the flat-out spin with only some relatively light biffs of the barriers.

08:17 P14 might not sound like much, but according to Adrian Sutil, a trouble-free run into Q2 was a good result for Sauber on what was a difficult day.

"The car is not where we want it to be yet, but I am quite satisfied we were able to run without any problems during qualifying and that we made it into Q2.

"The yellow flag at the end didn't help, I think I could have pushed to get even more out of the car. But I think P14 is solid for today and I will definitely get the most out of the car tomorrow to improve that position."

Sutil's team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, meanwhile, had a shocker. The Mexican missed FP3 while the team changed his gearbox, before qualifying 19th – which turns into the back row with the penalty for the gearbox switch.

08:26 Toro Rosso is a happy garage right now. We've already mentioned the efforts of Vergne (sixth) and Kvyat (eighth on his debut grand prix weekend)

Technical director James Key reckons it's reward for the effort that's gone in since the first test - when Toro Rosso, like most Renault teams, looked in serious trouble.

"We had a plan for our qualifying session which we quickly had to change. Clearly in the wet it was about being reliable, the drivers keeping it together and having the right calls on the pit wall. I have to say that all of this worked very well and the drivers did a fantastic job.

"We’ve had a long road to come to this point after winter testing and to start the first race with both cars in Q3 is a very positive way to start the new season."

08:29 Not quite the qualifying sessions Williams would have hoped to be reflecting on.

Here's the rotated Martini car of Valtteri Bottas. He ended the session 10th, one place behind team-mate Felipe Massa.

But to compound the Finn's issues, he'll start 15th - a legacy of his gearbox troubles from FP3 and the five-place penalty the required change subsequently invoked.

08:33 More on that Caterham social media love-in between Kobayashi and Fernandes - the Japanese has responded!

"Thanks tony. Still we are learning a lot. Important for us tomorrow is finish race and take more mileage!"

08:42 Red Bull is putting Vettel's 13th place down to issues with the engine software affecting his car's driveability.

JONATHAN NOBLE has just got back from the Red Bull briefing, full story coming up in a moment.

08:43 With Ricciardo in second and Vettel down in 13th, will a dry race expose any limitations to the Red Bull's performance? Or will reliability be the only thing that robs the Aussie of a strong result on his debut alongside the four-time world champion?

One thing's for certain, Vettel will not enjoy the gap between them on the grid tomorrow. He cut a despondent figure after being eliminated in Q2 earlier.

08:56 Vettel's failure to get into Q3 coincided with Kimi Raikkonen crashing his Ferrari and bringing out the yellows just ahead of him at Turn 3.

But the world champion was adamant that he wouldn't have blamed yellow flags even if he hadn't had the software/driveability issues that he felt were his main issue today:

"I had the yellow flag on the last lap, but I'm not a big fan of blaming that.

"There were other cars behind me that had yellow flags as well, and equally Kimi didn't drop it on purpose.

"A lot of things came together. But it's a long year and a long race tomorrow."

09:03 An engine software issue was to blame for Vettel's poor qualifying performance.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "It was unlucky for Seb. His engine software meant he was down on power with extremely poor drivability and we need to understand that, as it compromised his qualifying."

Full story will be with you shortly.

09:09 Here's the story on Vettel's engine software issue - confirmed by Renault, maligned by the world champion.

Vettel hurt by engine software issue

09:11 If Vettel/Red Bull think their issues are bad, then what must Lotus be feeling right now?

This perfectly-timed shot from our snappers at LAT is proof for the world champions that no matter how bad it is, someone's always got it worse than you...

09:26 Alonso's playing it coy with regards Ferrari's chances of a podium finish tomorrow.

"The fuel consumption we need to see tomorrow, or even after the next couple of races when we know a little bit more. In testing and practice you never know. I did a race sim yesterday [but] the pace is difficult to see on Friday.

"This first race, the first priority is the finish the race. That may sound pessimistic, but even the guy in pole position cannot be 100 [per cent] that he will finish the race. We need to make sure we cross the line. If we do so, then we can be on the podium."

09:30 Uh-oh. Kevin Magnussen could lose his fourth place on tomorrow's starting grid.

The McLaren rookie is under investigation for an alleged yellow-flag infringement at Turn 3/4 in Q2.

That was when Kimi Raikkonen crashed his Ferrari. Magnussen improved right at the end of the session, while team-mate Jenson Button and world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to get out of Q2.

09:32 Fernando Alonso is also under investigation for impeding Esteban Gutierrez at Turn 1.

09:40 Should Magnussen be penalised, it would undo a very impressive couple of days worth of work on his grand prix debut.

The youngster understandably buoyant talking after qualifying.

"The positive thing today was that nobody really has much experience with these cars in the wet. I just tried not to make any mistakes, I tried to take it easy, get a lap done and then push after that.

"The team is doing a great job in just making me feel at home and giving me the time and support I need to feel comfortable. I know that I have the support to take it step-by-step, and progress in my own tempo."

09:44 Sebastian Vettel was another driver to pass the yellow flags brought out by Kimi Raikkonen's Q2 shunt and be subsequently investigated.

The stewards have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Their statement read: "The driver's explanation supported by the telemetry satisfied the stewards that, under changing track conditions, the driver had slowed sufficiently and was fully in control."

09:57 For a one-shot list of quotes from all the drivers, head to this page on AUTOSPORT's statistics partner FORIX:

Australian GP driver quotes and data

If you click on each driver's name, you get more stats from their weekend, including their results and speed trap info from each session.

After the GP tomorrow, that's augmented with their full race laptimes and gaps.

09:58 And coming up on AUTOSPORT later today will be CRAIG SCARBOROUGH's Australian GP tech blog, in which he uncovers some of the design secrets only revealed in Melbourne - including Red Bull's camera mounting solution.

10:07 It was a promising day for Force India, with Nico Hulkenberg marking his return with a Q3 appearance and seventh on the grid.

According to the German, a well-balanced car made dealing with the difficult conditions much easier.

"It was the first time I've driven the new car in the wet, but right away I felt comfortable and confident with a nice balance on the intermediates and the wets.

"There was a good harmony between me and the car, and the team did a great job helping me manage the traffic.

"Looking ahead to tomorrow, it really is a step into the unknown for everyone. I think we are well prepared and I’m really looking forward to the race where points will be our target."

10:14 Kimi Raikkonen doesn't reckon his crash in qualifying cost him anything as traffic had already spoilt his chance of reaching Q3, and says he shunted on his in-lap due to "playing around with switches or something"...

Raikkonen: traffic more costly than crash

10:16 Front-row man Ricciardo gets the social media thumbs-up from Australia's last F1 hero and his Red Bull predecessor, Mark Webber:

"What a quali session... Really really tricky stuff... @danielricciardo massively impressive mate, and have a smooth one tomorrow."

10:17 You can read a lot more on what Webber's up to now in this week's AUTOSPORT magazine, which has an in-depth feature on the Porsche LMP1 programme, including CRAIG SCARBOROUGH's technical analysis of the 919 Hybrid.

Webber's also here in Melbourne on TV pundit duty this weekend.

10:18 He may have only got one run, but Max Chilton says 17th on the grid was a decent result for him and Marussia.

"I was really pleased with my lap on the opening run and felt that a few issues from FP3 had really come together. Bar one small mistake it was a clean lap.

"There was more to come of course but I'm reasonably happy given all the factors that we've experienced. It would have been nice to improve as we were close to Q2 but the weather intervened, so this is where we will start the race and that is what we have to focus on now."

Chilton's team-mate Jules Bianchi finished 18th, after having to fiddle with the settings on his quick lap due to a sensor problem.

10:20 JONATHAN NOBLE brings news from the stewards - no further action against Kevin Magnussen or Fernando Alonso either, so the grid is unchanged and they keep their fourth and fifth places.

Magnussen had been investigated for a potential yellow-flag infringement, while Alonso was accused of impeding Gutierrez's Sauber.

10:28 Felipe Massa believes that Williams's underwhelming qualifying session was simply a result of its car not being suited to wet conditions.

The Brazilian will start tomorrow's race ninth, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas 15th after a gearbox penalty. That's a far cry from the top five-challenging pace they showed in practice.

Massa said he was struggling with rear stability, a trait of the new Williams that's exacerbated by the wet weather. He thinks it's possible for them to go back to fighting for a top five finish tomorrow - if it stays dry:

"We have a very long day tomorrow. We need to work on the rear and try to do the best we can in the race. Even if we’re not starting well, it doesn’t take our confidence that we can have a good race tomorrow.

"In the normal conditions in the dry the car was a lot more competitive. Maybe tomorrow the situation can be different and we can be stronger."

10:35 A stunning first Saturday of the 2014 Formula 1 season is over - and if race day can match its qualifying counterpart, tomorrow will be an explosive curtain-raiser.

AUTOSPORT Live returns at 0430 tomorrow morning (UK time), 90 minutes before the lights go out and the Australian Grand Prix begins.

We'll leave you with an AUTOSPORT exclusive to get you excited about the race (as if you need another reason to be).

The two Mercedes drivers enter the 2014 F1 season as overwhelming favourites, and have so far reaffirmed that status in Melbourne with Lewis Hamilton's pole position and Nico Rosberg starting third.

So what do Hamilton and Rosberg really think of their chances? In a pair of exclusive interviews, they reveal one or two home truths to EDD STRAW.

Mercedes' dynamic duo on 2014

Mainly cloudy High Temp: 26°C / 79°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 14 Mar Start GMT
 Friday - Practice 01:00
Saturday 15 Mar
 Saturday - Qualifying 02:30
Sunday 16 Mar
 Sunday - Australian Grand Prix 04:30