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Button stuns with Australian pole 01 Apr 2006

Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 1 April 2006 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari crashes during qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 1 April 2006 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 1 April 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 1 April 2006 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB2.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 1 April 2006

Honda’s Jenson Button will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole position after a tense qualifying session which saw Michael Schumacher eliminated before he could push Ferrari into the top 10.

The first 15 minutes saw a frustrated Rubens Barrichello denied his chance for Honda after Super Aguri’s Yuji Ide got in his way. The Japanese rookie had several adventures during the session, and was not at all popular with the Brazilian, who thus ended up only 17th on 1m 29.943s. Rather more predictably, the Midlands of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro were also eliminated. The Dutchman lapped his in 1m 30.226s, the Portuguese in 1m 30.709s. Between them was Scott Speed, who couldn’t get his Toro Rosso round below 1m 30.426s. At the back were Takuma Sato on 1m 32.279s and the unfortunate Ide on 1m 36.164s.

Fastest at this point were Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Nick Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso, Christian Klien, Felipe Massa and Tonio Liuzzi.

The second session promised much and the times quickly fell as Heidfeld led the way for BMW Sauber. It was red flagged after a while, however, when Felipe Massa lost control of his Ferrari and backed it into the wall on the exit to Turn 11. The Brazilian later said he had lost control after running over a kerb.

The incident compressed the remainder of the session, and a quick rain shower also hampered some runners.

This time Alonso led the way from Montoya, Heidfeld, Webber, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Trulli, Button, Ralf Schumacher and Villeneuve. That meant that Michael Schumacher missed the cut, by a frustrating 0.004s, with a lap of 1m 26.718s. However, there are those who believe that the prime slot is 11th place as whoever occupies it can choose whatever fuel load they want.

Behind Schumacher, Red Bull’s army lined up with Coulthard on 1m 27.023s, Liuzzi on 1m 27.219s after a strong showing, and Klien on 1m 27.591s. Williams’ Nico Rosberg didn’t get going in time so missed the cut with 1m 29.422s, and Massa failed to record a time.

That set up the final 20-minute showdown, with Alonso setting the pace from Fisichella before everyone went through their mandatory fuel-burning laps. With five minutes left the new tyres went on and it was Montoya who led the way with 1m 26.391s. Alonso beat that with 1m 25.778s but then Button pushed ahead with 1m 25.229s. For a while Montoya looked like challenging that, even though he spun at one stage in Turn 4, but his fresh lap amounted to nothing.

Immediately behind Button, Fisichella took second on the grid with a late run to 1m 25.635s, Alonso’s lap left him third, Raikkonen’s 1m 25.822s was good for fourth from Montoya’s eventual 1m 25.976s. Schumacher popped in a promising 1m 26.612s to put Toyota sixth, Webber was seventh on 1m 26.937s for Williams, and Heidfeld was very disappointed with only 1m 27.579s in his BMW Sauber after running out of fresh rubber. Villeneuve knew that he would incur a 10 grid place penalty after changing his engine before the session, so only focused on race running on his way to 1m 29.239s. After Trulli did not do any laps due to gearbox problems, Villeneuve thus ended up ninth but will drop to 19th when his penalty is applied.

So that’s the grid, and as usual it’s anyone’s guess what fuel loads each driver was running. The times are so close at the front, however, that a great race seems in prospect.