Drivers, teams support qualifying postponement

By Neil Frankland, AP, 16 March 2013
© AP Photo/Brandon Malone

There was a time when the rain that fell on the Albert Park circuit would have been considered a dangerous but acceptable challenge to the running of a Formula 1 race.

When officials on Saturday delayed and eventually postponed the latter portion of qualifying for Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, drivers and teams were unanimous in their support of the decision.

"You can say 30 years ago they probably would have raced in those conditions, but safety's come a long way since then in terms the circuits and the way that we view safety, and I'm very happy I'm racing at this moment in time because this is correct to not run today," McLaren's Jenson Button said.

"The fans will get a better show than if we'd tried to run in these conditions, because we'd all be piled up at Turn 1."

Qualifying for the Australia GP will be completed Sunday morning after a series of rain delays and darkness prevented the running of the second and third sessions Saturday.

A wet first session of qualifying was completed after a half-hour postponement, but heavy rain prompted a series of further delays that eventually made it impossible to complete due to fading light.

"It's incredibly tricky, probably one of the slipperiest circuits that I've raced on in the rain, simply because there's a lot of white lines everywhere that are painted black," Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said. "So as soon as you hit those the car slides and aquaplanes and oversteers so that's why you saw so many people going off."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner agreed the decision to postpone qualifying was the right one for driver safety.

"Plenty of time tomorrow to come back and qualify at 11 o'clock ahead of the race at 5 (p.m.) so it's 100 percent the right decision," he said.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said it was too much to ask of his drivers to race in poor conditions.

"When there are 20 odd cars out there, a lot of the time these guys see virtually nothing," he said. "It's an extraordinary experience these guys can talk about, but I can only start to imagine how scary and how difficult it is to perform in those conditions.

"To go out at all these guys are extraordinarily brave, but these cars that we have these days unfortunately could not go out in these sorts of conditions."

Button said while many fans would have gone home disappointed with the decision, a qualifying held in better conditions would result in a much more exciting spectacle.

"It is sad because for us there is so much energy and adrenaline running through us when we get into qualifying and we have to go through that again and again and again, and then suddenly it's all over," he said. "But that's minimal compared to the fans sitting in the grandstand getting wet all day and we don't put on a proper show.

"But that is the sport," he added. "Hopefully the fans understand that and we will make sure we do a great job in the morning."

 

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