Heavy rain delays qualifying at Australian Grand Prix | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 16.03.2013
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Heavy rain delays qualifying at Australian Grand Prix

Qualifying for Formula One's season opener in Melbourne was cancelled after heavy rain forced officials to delay and then abandon the session. Ex-F1 race-winner Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, has hung up his helmet.

A wet first round of qualifying was completed at the Albert Park street circuit Saturday after being postponed for thirty minutes. But the rain returned as evening approached in Melbourne, and a further series of delays ultimately forced officials to delay the session due to fading light.

"We asked the stewards to have a chat because of the heavy rain and bad light and they decided it was just best to put everybody out of their misery," Charlie Whiting, the race director in charge of F1 proceedings, told news agency dpa.

Drivers said the decision to call of the day's qualifying was the right one, with dry weather conditions forecast for Sunday.

Jenson Button of McLaren, told dpa, race officials had "no choice. A stop-start session like today's is tough for everyone."

"For us drivers, it means we have to build ourselves up for the challenge of qualifying again and again - a bit like asking Usain Bolt to get ready for the five 100-meter sprints one after the other and aborting four of them," Button said.

Several cars, including Button's teammate Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa of Ferrari, had off-track excursions during the first period of qualifying.

The afternoon's biggest casualty was Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez who span out before colliding with a barrier, and badly damaging the car's nose.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany was quickest in the first session of qualifying in a time of 1min 43.380 seconds. Four of the five rookies in the field were among the six drivers eliminated during the session that was completed.

The decisive final two rounds of qualifying will now take place Sunday, with stewards scheduling the races for 11 a.m., local time (0000 UCT).  The race, the season opener for 2013, is set to begin at 5 p.m. local time.

The last time qualifying was postponed was at the Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka in 2010. 

Ralf Schumacher calls it quits

Meanwhile, former Formula One racing driver Ralf Schumacher announced his retirement from motorsport on Saturday, saying he was ending his driving career in the DTM German touring car championship.

Schumacher is the younger brother of seven-time Formula One champion, Michael Schumacher. Ralf won six races during his F1 career, which ended in 2007.

"I've been thinking a great deal about my future during the last few weeks and have reached the conclusion that I am better able to support the extensive changes at Mercedes-Benz with regard to the DTM in a management role than at the wheel of a DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupe," Schumacher said in a statement on the team's website.

Schumacher's place in the team will be taken up by 18-year-old Pascal Wehrlein, who will become the youngest ever driver to race in the DTM championship.

jlw/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters, dapd)

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