As it happened: Race day at Shanghai International Circuit
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
||CHINESE GRAND PRIX
| CURRENT WEATHER
||21°C / 70°F
|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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The sport continues its far-east opening to the season, with the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix from the 5.451 km Shanghai International Circuit.
Since then, conditions have deteriorated, with rain falling in the last hour. The track surface is wet as we begin our coverage this afternoon, with further rain expected during the course of the race.
Temperatures will remain warm thanks to a strong south-westerly wind with a maximum of 21 degrees Celsius. Track temperatures will suffer today in the damp conditions, failing to reach anywhere near the high thirties we saw yesterday.
• How will the rain affect things this afternoon?
• Are you pleased at the outcome of the weather, or did the sport need a dry race today?
• Will the safety car make an appearance during the race today?
Tell everyone what you think.
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The day began with astonishment in the final practice session, as Nico Rosberg left the track entering the pitlane at the end of his installation lap. No damage was done to the Williams FW31, and the German duly responded in the best possible way by posting 1:36.133 in the dying moments to top the session, ahead of Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg fastest in final China practice
Vettel's charge to pole was remarkable in the afternoon. In the second period of qualifying he left it very late, setting only one timed lap to put him top of the pile. Minutes later he blew everyone away by performing the same trick in the shootout, snatching the pole from team-mate Mark Webber, before Fernando Alonso bagged a spot on the front row alongside Vettel in his recently modified Renault R29.
The joy wasn't spread throughout the field. Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa all suffered in qualifying, and they will start outside the top ten this afternoon.
Vettel gives Red Bull first F1 pole
First up was the Aston Martin Asia Cup race for 10 laps. Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa took victory in Saturday's opening round of the 2009 AMAC series by just six-tenths of a second for Dilango Racing, edging out Mark Williamson.
Next it was latest round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia - also holding their first round of the season this weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix. Reigning PCC Asia champion Darryl O'Young is aiming to build on his spectacular Macau victory last October and retain the title for Team Jebsen.
In the last few minutes, the fans have caught a glimpse of their idols as the Formula 1 drivers' parade rounded the circuit slowly in the rain.
We have been monitoring the Chinese rainfall radar throughout the course of the day, and further rain behind these showers looks certain for the next few hours.
However, today's rain will be a great concern to those men as they have little flexibility in their strategy to stop for appropriate wet tyres as conditions change. The fact that wet tyres will be needed today is also a disadvantage, as it means the use of both dry tyre options will no longer be mandatory.
The Brawn pair of Barrichello and Button are well-placed, with more fuel on board than the front row starters and a very quick car.
Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Buemi all have a much longer strategy in mind from the bottom half of the top ten and that could certainly pay off if the conditions keep changing.
Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet have a massive fuel load in their cars and that could also work well on a day of rain chaos.
• Timo Glock will start in 19th position after a gearbox failure in final practice. The Toyota driver qualified a disappointing 14th and falls to almost the back of the grid due to his five-place gearbox penalty.
• Despite qualifying first and thrid, the Red Bull drivers had limited running on Saturday due to driveshaft rubber boot problems. The team will be hoping any work they have done overnight to solve the issue sees them through to the end of the race without the boots being damaged.
The track surface remains wet from the continuing showers.
In these wet conditions, this may not be the last time the big Mercedes joins the track today.
With conditions likely to vary throughout, it is very easy to get the tyre choice wrong - as Ferrari demonstrated with Kimi Raikkonen's early move to full wet rubber in Malaysia.
The Finn gambled on heavy rain that fell lightly - and not for several minutes. As a result, he was helpless in an understeering F60, lapping more than 20 seconds off the pace.
Every driver will perform vital checks, such as testing the radio communication with the team, and determining where standing water is collecting on the track surface.
For reference, the full wet has a green band round the centre tread of the tyre. The intermediate tyre has no green band.
These are the kind of conditions that may need a safety car start.
This is not good news for the lightly-fuelled cars at the front, as they will not be able to sprint away ahead of their early first stops.
The Chinese weather radar is showing a varying shade of green for a little while, but behind that a shade of yellow is signaling heavier rain later.
This rain is on the day.
Alonso is keen for the cars to be released as he has very little fuel in that Renault.
Smedley encourages his driver to generate as much brake temperature as he can - a difficult task in these conditions.
Sutil rejoins without damage, but has dropped behind his team-mate Fisichella and now runs in 18th position. He is not allowed to repass while the safety car remains on track.
Drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Nick Heidfeld and particularly Heikki Kovalainen can run much longer in this opening stint.
Giancarlo Fisichella is the main beneficiary so far. He qualified 20th, but with Glock and Kubica starting from the pitlane, and Sutil and Rosberg having pitted, he runs 16th.
Race control have deemed the conditions are ready for racing. The drivers will now focus on a rolling start to the race.
The McLaren is up to fifth and has lots of fuel on board.
Trulli is touring round the circuit without a rear wing on the Toyota, while Kubica came in with heavy damage to the front end of his BMW F1.09.
The Ferrari and McLaren drivers in the top eight have yet to stop, having started with much heavier cars than their rivals.
Vettel currently leads the race, despite the moment. Buemi had the piece of his front wing removed from the rear wing of his car, and he rejoined in ninth.
The incident happened when they were both moving wide to pass the slowing Jarno Trulli, who had no rear wing on his Toyota. He has now retired from the race.
Glock gets a new nose and he rejoins the fray.
Jenson Button is second, with Webber, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kovalainen and Barrichello all in an equally-spaced pack behind the leader.
Since the restart, he has moved up the field to 14th place and is charging after Adrian Sutil in the Force India.
Jenson now has Mark Webber's Red Bull right behind him.
The front end of the Renault is damaged, but Piquet keeps the engine going and is touring back to the pits.
Timo did, however, spin a couple of laps ago, denting his progress.
Button resumes from the mistake in third.
Replays show Webber ran wide in the final corner.
Robert Kubica is now promoted to ninth, but he makes a mistake at the final corner of the lap and Adrian Sutil passes him. Sutil is ninth, Kubica tenth.
Sebastien Bourdais is a bit further down in 14th place. He has just lost 15 seconds following a wild spin in the Toro Rosso.
Glock is one second behind Nico Rosberg, and running one second per lap quicker than the Williams.
Vettel is very close behind and looking for a way past the leader.
Rosberg remains in 14th and is 20 seconds behind Sebastien Bourdais.
Rubens Barrichello is fifth, with Lewis Hamilton sixth from team-mate Kovalainen.
Buemi rejoined in 10th after his stop and will catch the back of this battle soon.
Team-mate Kovalainen is past into fifth.
Rosberg now comes into the pits from 16th.
It is two-by-two formation in the top six as the Brawns of Button and Barrichello continue third and fourth ahead of the battling McLarens of Kovalainen and Hamilton.
Adrian is out of the race with heavy front end damage, promoting Hamilton to sixth, Glock to seventh ... Glock has passed Heidfeld in that incident ... Buemi eighth.
Nick Heidfeld lost four seconds running wide in the same place where Sutil crashed.
Heikki Kovalainen finished fifth, right behind Barrichello, with Hamilton sixth, Glock seventh and Buemi in eighth place to score the final point.
Robert Kubica ended a difficult race in 13th, with Fisichella 14th, Rosberg 15th and Nelson Piquet last of the remaining runners in 16th.
Kazuki Nakajima retired in the pits. Felipe Massa retired on the track during the second safety car period, and Jarno Trulli was the first to go having been rear-winged by Robert Kubica, causing that second safety car period.
Today's winner Vettel is third, sharing the place with Timo Glock.
Vettel scores Red Bull's maiden F1 win
Mark Webber backed-up the performance with an excellent second place to crown a brilliant day for the team.
Brawn GP finish three-four to maintain their drivers' and constructors' championship leads, and McLaren are up and running with more points on the board and a strong finish for Heikki Kovalainen
This was the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix on AUTOSPORT Live. Thanks for your company throughout another interesting weekend.
Two races so far with wet weather. Surely that trend will be reversed as the sport travels to Bahrain? To find out, join us for the early weather forecast tomorrow and then full coverage throughout next weekend.