Hong Kong: 0540 GMT: Smith tells me that, as you’d expect, there is plenty of support for the Australian Mark Webber. There is even a banner in the crowd proclaiming, “Mark for PM”.
0535 GMT: AFP reporter Robert Smith, at Albert Park, has encouraging news — he tells me that the sun is out and the track is dry. There were more showers in the morning, he says, but they have cleared nicely. Less than 30 minutes to the big off.
0533 GMT: The weather has played havoc this weekend in Melbourne. Qualifying had to be abandoned on Saturday because of heavy rain, and the session was finished off on Sunday morning.
WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT of the Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, where reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel starts on pole position. Red Bull’s Vettel is chasing a fourth drivers’ title on the bounce.
He will start alongside team-mate Mark Webber on the front row of the grid at Albert Park. It was the young German’s 37th career pole and sets up the world champion Red Bulls as favourites heading into the eagerly anticipated first race of the campaign.
Lewis Hamilton, making his debut for Mercedes, was third-fastest, with Felipe Massa fourth, ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso. German Nico Rosberg was sixth in his Mercedes.
Rounding out the top 10 were the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, followed by Force India’s Paul di Resta and the struggling McLaren of Jenson Button. He won in Melbourne last year but his McLaren appears well off the pace this time.