Jenson Button heads an all Brawn front row for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after clinching pole position in qualifying in Melbourne.
The Brawn GP pairing dominated the opening qualifying knock-out sessions, confirming their pre-season pace, but it was Rubens Barrichello who had the edge over his teammate.
The Brazilian veteran looked on course to take the fourteenth pole of his career after posting a lap of 1.26.505 around the Albert Park Circuit.
But a late charge from Jenson Button in the dying seconds of qualifying three saw the British driver take the top spot by three tenths of a second, prompting speculation that Brawn GP have elected to run their drivers on different fuel loads.
Button was delighted with the result and said it was a huge lift for the team after months of uncertainty about the future of the Brackley based outfit – a future which looked stronger today after Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was unveiled as the team’s chief sponsor.
“The last five and six months have been so tough,” he enthused afterwards. “Having gone from not having a drive or a future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing, it really is, and all credit must go to the team for making this happen. This is where we deserve to be after the tough times we have had.”
“This morning’s pace was pretty good on both tyres and I was really happy, but I didn’t know what the others’ pace was – and you don’t know untill qualifying. They seemed a bit closer than I thought especially in Q1 and Q2 where they were only one or two tenths behind us. I was struggling a bit on low fuel but when we put more fuel in the car felt normal – and that’s a good thing isn’t it.”
Sebastien Vettel hustled his Red Bull into third place confirming the pace of Adrian Newey’s RB5. Home favourite Mark Webber looked set to consolidate the second row for the Milton-Keynes based outfit, but a mistake on his final qualifying run saw him drop to tenth.
Robert Kubica was fourth fastest for BMW Sauber ahead of Friday’s pace-setter Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari showed signs of improvement in the hands of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen after spending most of Friday languishing in the mid-field. Massa hauled his F60 into seventh place, sandwiching the Toyota’s of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen just scraped through in ninth.
It was a disastrous start to the weekend for defending world champions McLaren-Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton will start from fifteenth on the grid after a gearbox problem prevented him from taking part in Q2. It is not yet known if his team will have to change the gearbox unit, which would result in a grid penalty.
Teammate Heikki Kovalainen will start fourteenth after failing to set a time quick enough for the top ten.
Renault are another team that appear to be struggling with the new regulations. The best Fernando Alonso could muster was twelfth, while teammate Nelson Piquet failed to progress beyond the first knock-out stage and starts seventeenth, behind Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Beumi.
Buemi’s teammate Sebastien Bourdais, and the Force India pairing of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella make up the final places on the grid.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps 1. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:25.211 1:24.855 1:26.202 19 2. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:25.006 1:24.783 1:26.505 21 3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:25.938 1:25.121 1:26.830 21 4. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:25.922 1:25.152 1:26.914 19 5. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:25.846 1:25.123 1:26.973 21 6. Glock Toyota (B) 1:25.499 1:25.281 1:26.975 19 7. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:25.844 1:25.319 1:27.033 21 8. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:26.194 1:25.265 1:27.127 20 9. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:25.899 1:25.380 1:27.163 21 10. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:25.427 1:25.241 1:27.246 20 11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:25.827 1:25.504 14 12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:26.026 1:25.605 12 13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.074 1:25.607 16 14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:26.184 1:25.726 15 15. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:26.454 no time 5 16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:26.503 10 17. Piquet Renault (B) 1:26.598 12 18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:26.677 10 19. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:26.742 9 20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:26.964 10