Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was among the drivers who struggled on the deluged circuit in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. Reuters

Heavy rain decimated the first qualifying session of the new Formula One season as the final two stages were postponed until Sunday morning at the Australian Gran Prix in Melbourne.

There was much anticipation ahead of the first real chance to assess the teams’ new cars true pace, but the session was initially delayed for 30 minutes. When it did get underway, it was a challenge for the drivers to keep their cars on the track, with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez all losing control on the deluged Albert Park circuit.

As the session wore on the teams switched to intermediate tires, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg setting the fastest time ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. The big losers of Q1 were Pastor Maldonado in his Mercedes and Sauber’s rookie Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to make it into the top 16 and a place in Q2.

The start of Q2 was again delayed by rain before it was eventually postponed for the day with the conditions failing to improve and the sun beginning to set.

McLaren’s Jenson Button said the session had been tough for all involved.

“A stop-start session like today’s is tough for everyone,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “ 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 five 100-meter sprints one after the other and aborting four of them. “

The second and third stages of qualifying to decide the grid for the Australian Grand Prix will now take place at 11 a.m. local time, six hours before the race is set to begin. Button’s new teammate Sergio Perez believes the schedule will pose plenty of challenges.

“We’ll have to follow a really tight schedule tomorrow—including a very short turn-around between qualifying and race—and that’ll be tough for everyone, especially the guys in the garage,” he said.

Three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel had set the fastest times in Friday practice and will set off as favorite to claim pole and start the season with a race win.

Where to watch: Stages two and three of the qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix will get underway at 8 p.m. ET, with the race set to begin at 2 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available, here.