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Qualifying analysis - so Brawn weren’t bluffing 29 Mar 2009

Qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, third; Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix, pole position; Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix, second.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009 (L to R): Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso with Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009 Timo Glock (GER) Toyota in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 March 2009

They had dominated testing ever since their car first turned a wheel in anger, but it was not until the first qualifying session of the year that Brawn could truly be sure of their real position. Now, however, they can be, as Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello wrapped up the front row of the grid for the first time for a new team since March performed the feat in South Africa back in 1970.

There was further controversy after qualifying when the Toyotas were stripped of their positions for having rear wings deemed to be to flexible, while Williams withdrew a protest over the design of the leading edge of the sidepods on the Ferraris and Red Bulls after deciding it wasn’t in the interests of the sport.

Brawn
Jenson Button, 1m 25.981s, P3/1m 26.202s, P1
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 26.348s, P6/1m 26.505s, P2

Barrichello set the pace in the first two qualifying sessions, but as he found his BGP001 starting to understeer with its race fuel load, so Button found his handling with the edge and poise it had lacked on low fuel. The result was the Englishman’s fourth pole, but Barrichello was also fast enough to take the other front row slot. It was the perfect start for Ross Brawn’s squad.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 27.009s, P13/1m 26.830s, P3
Mark Webber, 1m 26.355s, P7/1m 27.246s, P10, will start P8

Vettel had a problem with a wheel nut which hampered his morning running, but in qualifying he banged in a great lap which showed the true promise of Adrian Newey’s ‘conventional’ car. Webber was not happy with his final lap of Q3, as he found his RB5 unsettled in the bumps of Turn Nine.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 26.514s, P9/1m 26.914s, P4
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 26.555s, P10/1m 25.504s, P11, will start P9

After struggling for grip on Friday the Swiss-German team made good progress and Kubica was able to put some strong laps together, but even he admitted that fourth was better than he expected. Yet he lost grip on his second Q3 run after Rosberg threw dirt on to the track in Turn 14, otherwise he thought third was possible. Heidfeld, meanwhile, was happy enough until he encountered too much oversteer in the final corner and lost his chance of making it through to Q3. He is hoping KERS (which Kubica does not have) will give him an advantage in the race.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 25.808s, P1/1m 26.973s, P5
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 26.078s, P5/1m 25.607s, P13, will start P11

It was tempting to feel disappointed for Williams to start only fifth courtesy of Rosberg after all his practice speed. He said his FW31 was still nice to drive, and was quite happy, suggesting that the team believe some of their rivals to be running lighter on fuel (though it turns out those ahead largely are not). Nakajima looked okay in Q1 and Q2, but made a crucial error that left him stranded in Q2. Again.

Toyota
Timo Glock, 1m 26.410s, P8/1m 26.975s, P6, will start P19
Jarno Trulli, 1m 25.811s, P2/1m 27.127s, P8, will start P20

Toyota had expected better than sixth and eighth on the grid, but were still fine-tuning the balance of their TF109s right through to Q3. Glock was nevertheless quite happy, while Trulli found qualifying harder than he had anticipated and was ultimately disappointed. His main problem was generating sufficient heat in his Bridgestones when it really mattered.

The team was struck a serious blow later in the evening, when the stewards deemed that their rear wings were too flexible and moved both TF109s to the back of the grid. Toyota opted not to appeal.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 26.020s, P4/1m 27.033s, P7, will start P6
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 28.801s, P20/1m 27.163s, P9, will start P7

Massa said he could not feel satisfied with seventh place, having aspired to fifth, but that it was the best he could wring from his F60. Raikkonen lost time with a hydraulic problem in the final practice session, which reduced his running time. Both drivers think they are in good shape for the race, and hope that their KERS systems could confer a significant advantage at the start.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 27.357s, P17/1m 25.605s, P12, will start P10
Nelson Piquet Jnr, 1m 27.739s, P19/1m 26.598s, P17, will start P14

Almost tongue-in-cheek, Alonso allowed that the plan to fight for the podium might not happen on race day, but explained that a mistake in the penultimate corner may have cost him the chance of fifth or sixth place overall after he failed to make it through Q2. Piquet simply struggled.

McLaren
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 26.652s, P11/1m 25.726s, P14. will start P12
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 26.714s, P12/no time, P15, will start P18

As they had expected, McLaren struggled in Melbourne. Kovalainen said his MP4-24 was well balanced, but it still lacked grip. Hamilton had the same problem, and another. Fourth gear broke on his second flying lap of Q1, and though he made it through to Q2 he did not run as the team changed the gearbox. That, of course, incurred a penalty, so he was due to start from 20th place until the exclusion of the Toyota moved him back up two spots.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 27.192s, P16/1m 26.503s, P16, will start P13
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 27.152s, P15/1m 26.964s, P20, will start P17

Buemi was quite happy with the job he did first time out in a full-blown qualifying session, while Bourdais admitted to a mistake on his second run in Q1 and then to failing to get his tyres up to full temperature during his run three out lap.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 27.492s, P18/1m 26.677s, P18, will start P15
Adrian Sutil, 1m 27.062s, P14/1m 26,742s, P19, will start P16

Ultimately, Force India’s position was established in qualifying after the fast runs Sutil appeared to have done in practice. Fisichella still had some brake locking problems, while Sutil rued lack of downforce as the VJM02’s main shortcoming.