Button on pole as Brawn qualify one-two in Australia 28 Mar 2009
Jenson Button secured the fourth pole position of his suddenly revitalised Formula One career in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, and with Brawn GP team mate Rubens Barrichello alongside him on the front row, spectating Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson could scarcely have got his investment in Ross Brawns squad off to a better start. It marked the first time a new team have started their first race from the front row since the Seventies.
Barrichello set the pace in the first two knock-out sessions, but Button got the pole with his lap of 1m 26.202s compared to the Brazilians 1m 26.505s. One of them has to have at least a lap less fuel, and youd have to figure that is the Englishman. Barrichello did say that his car was less good on a heavier fuel load, when it developed understeer, whereas Button found his BGP001 better than it had been on low fuel.
The real surprise of Q3 was Sebastian Vettels jump up to third place for Red Bull, with a lap of 1m 26.830s. That might be due to a low fuel load, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless that pushed Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg down to fourth and fifth places. The Pole took his BMW Sauber round in 1m 26.914s, the German his hitherto unbeatable Williams in 1m 26.973s. Right behind them was Timo Glock in the leading Toyota on 1m 26.975s. You cant say that the times arent close in this new Formula One era.
Felipe Massa was the better placed Ferrari driver, in seventh on 1m 27.033s, followed by Jarno Trulli in the second Toyota on 1m 27.127s, team mate Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 27.163s and Red Bull's Mark Webber on 1m 27.246s. The fuel strategies will be fascinating to monitor tomorrow, as some may even be on three-stop strategies instead of the usual two.
Q2 had weeded out Nick Heidfeld, who lapped his BMW Sauber in 1m 25.504s, Fernando Alonsos Renault on 1m 25.605s, Kazuki Nakajimas Williams - a surprise after his Q1 performance - on 1m 25.607s, and the McLarens.
The silver arrows had not expected too much here, and their worst fears were realised when Heikki Kovalainen managed only 1m 25.726s for 14th. Lewis Hamilton didnt even run in Q2 because of a gearbox problem on his MP4-24, which he had taken to the 15th best time in Q1.
Sebastien Buemi did a good job on his debut to take 16th with 1m 26.503s, out-pacing Toro Rosso team mate Sebastien Bourdais who was 20th on 1m 26.964s. Between them came Nelson Piquet in his Renault on 1m 26.598s, and the Force ndias. Giancarlo Fisichella reversed the practice trend by acing team mate Adrian Sutil, 1m 26.677s to 1m 26.742s.
Thus the first grid of the new season sees a distinctly different look to Formula One, with many faces in unusual places. And the biggest question now is can Brawn really win their first Grand Prix, first time out?