LIVE TEXT COMMENTARY (all times GMT)
Time to sign off - well done for sticking with it. Read the full report of today's action
and make sure you join me from 0230 GMT on Saturday for third practice and qualifying. Should be tasty. You go get some sleep and I'll see you then. Cheerio.
The Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, as well as the Red Bull of Seb Vettel are in 15th, 17th and 16th respectively - so they were presumably on race simulations. Lucas di Grassi's Virgin car only completed two laps in the second session, Chandhok's Hispania just the one, while we did not see anything of Bruno Senna.
So then, here's a quick run down of the top-five times. Hamilton (1:25.801), Button (1:26.076), Webber (1:26.248), Schumacher (1:26.511) and Petrov (1:26.732).
The flag falls. Schumacher loses the front of his car right at the very end of his quick lap but still sets a time of 1:26.511. Pedro de la Rosa is weaving all over the track in his BMW Sauber as he winds down and almost takes out both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard doesn't seem to see the chequered flag and keeps going. Come in number 22, your time is up.
Webber goes third with a 1:26.248, Schumacher is fourth after a 1:26.522. Vettel spins after his back wheels touch the grass in the Turn Six complex. Jenson Button almost crashes into the back of Barrichello. It's all going off.
The weather doesn't seem to know what it wants to do. It's starting to rain again. Schumacher sets a time of 1:28.716. David Croft reports that the rain has prevented Mercedes from getting in many qualifying runs.
Home hope Mark Webber is out in his Red Bull and sets a time of 1:28.298. I'm afraid we seem to have a glitch with the leaderboard, it is still showing Paul di Resta on the list when Adrian Sutil has taken over that Force India car. Many apologies.
BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos on problems at the Virgin team:
"In first practice Timo Glock had a leakage problem, which turned out to be his gear box and they're still putting it back together - although whether he gets out is a whole different story. Lucas Di Grassi had a telemetry box problem, they've replaced it but the car is still up on jacks."
Great stat from David Croft on the Red Button. Robert Kubica has always qualified in the top five for the Australian Grand Prix, but has yet to finish a race here.
Nico Hulkenberg asks his Williams team over the radio whether to go on another low fuel run. After the session, his team may tell The Hulk not to ask that kind of question again over the radio as everyone can hear it.
Kubica posts a time of 1:35.050 - that's some 10 seconds slower than Hamilton's quickest time.
Michael Schumacher comes in after complaining that his tyres are graining. The track is starting to dry up. Kubica has the same problem but his Renault team tell him to keep going.
Karun Chandhok explains that he stopped because his car "lost drive" as he came out of the pit lane. He said that something is wrong with the gearbox. Here's the latest from BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Melbourne:
"I had a word with the Hispania drivers Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok just before second practice. During the dry first session they clocked up 43 laps between them and Senna is hopeful improving reliability will carry them through the race. He said: 'It's pretty encouraging. We haven't had any mechanical problems and there was only a little bit on the floor of the car that we had to fix. We have a good shot at finishing the race this time and being competitive.' Chandhok was plunged straight into qualifying's pressure-cooker in Bahrain without getting the chance to drive the Hispania over a single lap. He may be sitting out of second practice now but he's pleased with his progress in Melbourne. 'It was a bit of a novelty to do some mileage for a change instead of sitting around in the garage. I was not so far away from the other teams or from Bruno.'"
BBC pundit Anthony Davidson on how the F1 scoring system should work:
"I think every car (that finishes) should get a point because everyone's finishing races, so if you don't it's a massive deficit to you. The battles at the back of the field are just as important as the ones at the front, they're earning money and they've got aspiring mechanics and engineers, so you should be rewarded for doing a good job."
As I was typing that, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari takes to the track. And it's for longer than an installation lap. Spray is starting to come off the car.
It's pouring in Melbourne now, the umbrellas and those plastic macs are back out. Horner makes a face to the camera a la Alan Partridge's "It's Raining" pose. All the cars are in the pits.
BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos:
"Bruno Senna is fined 1600 Euros for speeding in the pit lane during the first session while Vitaly Petrov is fined 7000 Euros after being clocked at 94.6 km/h." The speed limit for the Albert Park pit lane this weekend is 60 km/h.
Karun Chandhok's Hispania vehicle stops just outside the exit to the pit lane. He clambers out and hitches a lift on the car as it is rolled back to the garage. There's now more rain in Melbourne.
There's a good little battle going on between the British pair at McLaren. Hamilton is now quickest after setting a 1:25.801. That's the fastest time of the day so far. Renault's Vitaly Petrov is third (1:26.732) while Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi is fourth (1:26.832).
BBC pundit Anthony Davidson on the Red Button:
"This is one of Jenson Button's better circuits although his results don't necessarily suggest it. He's been fast here but I think unlucky - last year of course he wasn't unlucky, he dominated the weekend from start to finish. It's a bit different now but this is the first session he's gone faster than Lewis since joining McLaren - it's one of his better circuits."
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton goes fastest with a 1:26.648 despite sliding a little bit when coming around the final corner but then team-mate Jenson Button takes it back after a 1:26.076.
Lots of times being posted now. Nico Rosberg takes his Mercedes top with a 1:27.464, Barrichello is second after a 1:27.585 with Kubica third and Williams driver Nick Hulkenberg fourth.
John in Amman, Jordan via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide):
"Mark my words, and remember you heard it here first: Kubica's rise to capture the driver's championship begins this weekend."
Now it's Rubens Barrichello's turn to take to the track for Williams. It doesn't look that wet out there now. No times posted as yet.
For the weather buffs among you, take a look at a
of the Melbourne area. It's very good. Adrian Sutil is out in his Force India for an installation lap.
Ferrari on Twitter:
"No point in running now... the track is neither fully wet nor OK for slicks."
BMW Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa tells his team "there is too much rain now" and is promptly told to come back in. All of the cars are in the pits as they wait for the shower to pass.
The flag drops and we are go for free practice two. The T-shirted individuals in the crowd that were enjoying the sunshine are now putting on their plastic macs. I'm a little bit concerned for them though as they don't look very substantial. That's just the parent in me. Red Bull boss Christian Horner ruefully looks up at the sky as his boys go out.
Ferrari on Twitter:
"Here we are again from the Ferrari garage. Felipe is just preparing to go into the car, Fernando will arrive in a few minutes. temperatures are much lower than before: 21 C air, 26 track. The wind is stronger and there is high chance of rain."
Mike on Twitter:
"Good afternoon from Beijing. Lunch done. Ready for more drama."
Force India are reporting that "we can feel spots of rain in the air before practice". Adrian Sutil is taking over the car for the second session from reserve driver Paul di Resta.
Just a quick reminder that you can be a part of this commentary. Give me your views, questions and predictions and I will use as many contributions as I can. Text on 81111 (UK)
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Darryl in Ewell via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide):
"With the three new teams being so far off the pace, coupled with the new scoring system for 2010, there's actually more points-paying positions for less competitive cars. Seems ironic that it was changed because there was a larger grid. Is 10 scoring positions for 18 competitive cars, rather than eight for 20, as was the case last year, a good thing or a bad thing? Admittedly the winner gets a larger percentage but even so... "
Hispania Racing's Bruno Senna on Twitter:
"A 'normal' practice session/test. Were one of the first cars out on track & ran all session well. Team & car are both really getting there. Aero adjustments helping and next we need to improve the car over the bumps on this track, but now it's beginning to become FUN!"
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt on Twitter:
"Calm after a breezy break is replaced by, um, yet more breeze, cloud & 22C temps. To add to the swirling skies a fighter jet is at large. Jarno Trulli doesn't seem too bothered by the change in the weather. He's barefoot at Lotus HQ, taking it easy in a pair of shorts."
The clouds are darkening in Melbourne which could make things interesting if it does rain. While you are waiting for the action to start again, take a look at our very funky
- in which Ferrari's Felipe Massa expresses his concern with the late start time of the Aussie GP.
Still awake, or are you just getting up? How was the break for you? Mine was almost spoiled by a cup misunderstanding with a tea-bar assistant but thankfully a full-blown diplomatic incident was averted. By the way, is it too early/late to be eating dark chocolate?
...and you're back in the room.
This seems like a good time to sign off. Try to keep awake and I'll be back at around 0500 GMT to take you through the second session. To keep you occupied, have a read of the
first practice report.
See you in a bit.
Simon via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide):
"Stuck in an office in Melbourne and I can hear the cars from here! Wish I were there but thankfully the trusty old Beeb is keeping me up to date. Here's hoping for an entertaining race and a British win so I can gloat on Monday."
Paul di Resta finished a very creditable 11th in his first race weekend practice session for Force India while Schumacher was 12th. Mark Webber, who went into the run-off area at Turn 14 at the very end of that session, was 14th in his Red Bull.
Here's the rest of the top 10: Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso (1:27.747), Hamilton (1:27.793), Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi (1:28.014), Petrov (1:28.114) and Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi (1:28.192).
Ferrari on Twitter:
"At least both drivers were able to do a good lap but the whole session was a bit messy because of red flags and traffic. Anyway we completed the programme, which is the most important thing."
BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos:
"Lotus are not exactly sure what the problem is with the car."
The session comes to a close. Kubica is top of the pops and he is followed by Rosberg, Button, Massa (1:27.511) and Sebastian Vettel (1:27.686). Kovalainen is sitting on a wall after being told by his Lotus team to leave his car on the track.
BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz on Michael Schumacher:
"The team are telling me he is much happier here working with his engineer and a lot less agitated. He wasn't happy with his seat, his seating position and driving position at Bahrain and that is a lot better here."
David in Harpenden via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide):
"Circuit designers to blame? Don't often see dull races at classic circuits like Spa, Silverstone or Monza."
Karun Chandhok is telling his Hispania team that the balance of the car is OK but that he has to keep looking in his mirror as there are people overtaking him all the time. Meanwhile, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg goes second with a 1:27.126. His team-mate Michael Schumacher is currently in eighth place.
It is certainly an eventful morning for Sauber. Pedro de la Rosa grinds to halt just after Turn Four and the yellow flags come out. The Spaniard is wheeled out of harm's way and we are go again. There are 10 minutes of the session remaining.
It is now Petrov's turn to spin but there are no problems and he quickly gets going again. Renault team-mate Kubica is flying now and beats his previous best to set a 1:26.927.
The Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen spins at Turn Nine but the Fin expertly wheel spins and resumes his lap. Nicely done. Kubica goes top with a 1:27.249.
BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos:
"I'm down at the Sauber garage and there are a lot of people shaking their heads, they have no idea at the moment why that front wing broke."
We are back racing again and here's a quick update on the times: Button is top with a 1:27.482 and he is followed by Renault's Robert Kubica (1:27.582), Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg (1:27.659) and Lewis Hamilton (1:27.793).
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Melbourne:
"How do F1's drivers cope with flying half way across the world and then make sure they are wide awake for race day? Well, Jenson Button decided to stay on Bahrain time - three hours ahead of the UK - even though he returned to McLaren's Woking HQ in the two weeks' between races. I can reassure you that he had a good sleep on the plane before landing in Melbourne on Sunday morning. Over the last few days, he's been going to the gym, swimming and cycling, making sure he's doing his main exercise at 5pm Melbourne time, which is the same time as Sunday's race. Drivers like Button, who's been putting himself through this cycle for a decade, are so used to asking their bodies to sleep and wake according to the demands of F1's global circuit that jet-lag hardly hits them any more - the lucky things
Renault on Twitter:
"All cars in the pit. The track is being cleared of bits of polystyrene. Shouldn't take too long."
More trouble for the Sauber of Kobayashi. Coming down to Turn Three, the wing comes off completely. He manages to keep his car on the track and he grinds to a halt in the gravel. Red flag.
giftwrappedand2 on Twitter:
"Right, off to the laptop in bed, I am flagging but determined to see first practice through."I salute you, you can do it.
Reigning champion Jenson Button goes fastest with a 1:27.798. Anthony Davidson says on our Red Button coverage that the McLaren is riding the Albert Park bumps the best out of any of the cars he has seen so far.
BBC pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie:
"Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok are expecting another tough weekend as they take the evolving Hispania cars out on track again but spirits are still high. Karun has come to Australia from India after three days of PR events. Both were saying how crucial running in P1 and P2 was as this is the chance for them to do the testing that they missed out on pre-season. Karun is desperate for running after only managing a handful of laps all weekend in Bahrain."
Schumacher went second just before that stoppage with a 1:30.734 but there could be some fall out to that as it seems the German carried on after the incident to set that time. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner cheekily says Schumacher should get a 10-place grid penalty for the next two races. We'll see what happens.
Whoops, we have our first incident of the day. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi posts the third fastest time of 1:31.588 and then smacks a cone when going over the rumble strips at Turn 11. He loses part of his front wing and then goes into the gravel. The red flag comes out as the debris is taken off the track.
There are lots of times being posted now. Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren tops the list with a 1:30.076 with Di Resta second after a 1:33.765. Renault's Vitaly Petrov is third and Heikki Kovalainen is fourth in the Lotus.
Virgin's Lucas di Grassi posts a time - a 1:40.581. BBC pit-lane reporter Holly Samos reveals that Michael Schumacher went to see Lady Gaga this week. I can picture him now grooving along. I wonder how good his dad dancing is?
morganeryl on Twitter:
"I think Webber has a great chance to win this weekend, he'll be desperate to win on home territory."
Hispania's Bruno Senna sets the first time of the day so far, a 1:37.989. Meanwhile, it is worth pointing out that McLaren and Mercedes have both been told to alter their diffusers by the FIA after the ones they used in Bahrain were 'against the spirit of the rules'. Here's what Force India team manager Andy Stevenson
told the BBC: "They have both had to make the starter hole at the back of the diffuser smaller but I think the difference on the track is going to be negligible. The McLarens have just come in with flo-vis all around the rear diffuser to check the air flow around that area."
BBC pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie:
"Paul di Resta is taking part in his first practice session for the team while the more experienced Adrian Sutil gets extra time to work on his tan. Whilst Di Resta is enjoying Australia, his F1 duties mean that he has missed an important DTM test in Spain - the touring car championship where he competes for Mercedes - which saw BBC's David Coulthard finishing in second. On the bright side, Paul's brother Stefan, who used to compete in karts and is travelling and on placement in Australia, has come to Albert Park with some fellow Scots to support."
No proper times posted as yet. Schumacher comes out, and then pops back in again. Meanwhile, breaking news regarding the new Virgin team - and it's a corker. BBC F1 commentator Jonathan Legard
reveals that they are being forced into making major alterations
to their car as its fuel tank is too small to get to the end of races. Brilliant.
Every driver has been out for an installation lap, everyone that is apart from the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher. Reserve driver Paul di Resta is in the chair for Force India today, in place of Adrian Sutil. He told BBC Sport's Sarah Holt: "I'm going to be nervous as it's a whole different situation for me." Have a look at the full story
F1Palmer89 on Twitter:
"15 hours into 65-hour waking stint this weekend, any chance Massa p1 in p1? Got a wager on! Failing that Alonso all the way!"
We are off. The first 90-minute practice session begins. Like Bahrain, the first car out is the Lotus of Jarno Trulli.
We are getting television pictures of a very warm and sunny Melbourne, which is nice. I've just had a question in about the weather for this weekend and looking at the Met Office predictions, Saturday and Sunday will be sunny - with a maximum of 32 degrees for race day. The only rain will be at night.
So what do you think? Do the rules need tweaking or is it going to take time in order for everything to settle down? Should there be, as suggested by McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh and Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, a mandatory two pit stops ruling? And as for the race, who will be top dog this weekend? How will you be watching it? And will you be getting any sleep? Any tips, please pass them on. This is your chance to get involved, get down with the kids on
or text me on 81111
(UK) or +44 7786200666
(worldwide). I'll be waiting for your call.
Parts of the season opener in Bahrain were as lively as a late-night debate in the House of Lords and since then there has been plenty of debate about why that was the case. Was it the ban on re-fuelling, the new tyre rules, the Sakhir circuit itself, the new lay-out in Bahrain - sections of which seemed to have a surface as smooth as Keith Richards' face, or simply that the teams needed time to get to grips with the new regulations? The next three days could give us a few more answers.
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Melbourne:
"Fast forward 11 hours from Greenwich Mean Time and, hello, welcome to lunch-time in Melbourne where instead of munching sarnies, we'll be watching Formula 1 cars whiz round Albert Park. Australians love their motorsport and for the last two mornings, at 0830am sharp we've been shocked out of our jet-lag by the sound of cars on track. This is the only GP on the calendar when there is on-track action each and every day. Some of the F1 drivers have been complaining that they haven't been able to walk the track because it's never been clear for long enough. But it's a crowd pleaser, and a huge 46,000 people came through the gates on Thursday. More will come over the weekend because in the second grand prix of 2010 there's plenty worth watching. Michael Schumacher is going for his fifth Australian win, home favourite Mark Webber has his best chance of victory with an in-form Red Bull while McLaren's one-time winners Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are hopeful they can prosper at the park circuit."
Morning gang, welcome to our coverage of the Australian Grand Prix. I trust you've had your afternoon siesta and are raring to go for today's two practice sessions from Albert Park. Here's the plan - the first session starts at 0130 GMT, the second one kicks off at 0530 GMT - with both being shown on the Red Button and right here on this very website. No falling asleep on the sofa now, I'll be watching.
The opening race of the new F1 season may have been bland in Bahrain, but this weekend it's going to be marvellous in Melbourne. I guarantee it*.* PS My guarantees are not legally binding.