Sebastian Vettel started his title defence with an immaculate pole position, with team-mate Mark Webber alongside him on the front row. When the weather-affected qualifying session resumed on Sunday morning, conditions in Albert Park had improved from yesterday evening – but only to the extent the track had changed from full-wet to intermediate conditions.
Early markers were set by Nico Rosberg and Vettel and as a dry line began to form, the question of a move to slick tyres took shape. The first to blink were McLaren, with Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button returning to the garage for supersoft tyres. Pérez punctured and returned for a second set of options. Button also returned to the pits – having changed his mind and decided to return to the Inters. Pérez was told to stay out and try to get heat into the red-banded tyres. He was unable to do so and dropped down to 15th and was eliminated.
Also eliminated at this stage were Nico Hülkenberg (11th), Adrian Sutil (12th), Jean-Eric Vergne (13th), Daniel Ricciardo (14th) and Valtteri Bottas (16th).
Nico Rosberg led the bulk of the field out for Q3 again with Intermediates the tyre of choice. Button, though, elected to remain in the garage, as did Force India’s Paul di Resta. When Button emerged with four minutes of the session remaining, he was using the dry weather supersoft tyre. It immediately took him into P1 but the other runners pitted for supersofts also, setting quicker times on the drying track, pushing Button all the way down to tenth.
As the final runs were completed the timing screens were lit up with purple best sector times, but it was Vettel who extracted the most from the drying circuit. “On the dries I think I got into the groove and the car felt pretty much in balance similar to what I had on Friday, so I was happy and ready to push on the lap. Obviously it’s always tricky to find the limit in these conditions but overall pretty happy with the lap.”
The drivers now have the unusual situation of a short break before returning to the garage for race preparation.