Jenson Button knew qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai was going to be closely fought, but he didn’t expect to be starting Sunday’s race with a face full of Renault gearbox.
The Brawn GP driver, who currently leads the drivers’ championship following back-to-back wins in Australia and Malaysia, is looking to make it three in a row in China this weekend. And with Brawn GP now vindicated by the FIA for running a split-diffuser the British ace is in a strong position to challenge for the title.
But any hopes Button had of a straight forward fight for the championship were dashed today when both Red Bull drivers, Fernando Alonso, not to mention his own teamamte Rubens Barrichello, got the jump on him in qualifying.
“Our car feels good around here but there were a few cars quicker than we expected in Qualifying today,” said Button after taking fifth place. “You could see in Q2 that the Red Bulls were very strong in the high-speed corners and we knew then that we would have a fight on our hands.”
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the different strategies work out in the race. Of course we would rather be on the front row of the grid but we will give it our best shot in the race tomorrow and see what happens.”
Team principal Ross Brawn also conceded that qualifying had been harder than he expected.
“A tougher qualifying session in Shanghai today than we have experienced in the first two races,” he said. “We have always said that our competition would catch up quickly and the evidence of that is clear to see today.”
“Our car is working well around this circuit although both Jenson and Rubens experienced too much understeer on their final runs. We are still well-placed in fourth and fifth positions on the grid and looking forward to a challenge tomorrow.”
Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello meanwhile showed that he is more than a match for his teammate this year as he out-qualified Button by a scant 0.050 seconds.
“I had a good qualifying session today but you can see how F1 can progress so quickly. Whilst we were surprised to see that the Red Bulls were quite so fast, it makes for great competition at the front. They will be tough to beat but we believe we have a good strategy. Both Jenson and I know the way to the podium here so let’s hope we can repeat that tomorrow.”