Saturday 28th March 2009
It was a dream debut for Brawn GP as Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello locked out the front row of the grid, easily outpacing their rivals.
Saturday's session in Melbourne marked Brawn's GP first qualifying as a constructor, but that didn't seem to worry the former Honda outfit with Button calmly grabbing pole position with a 1:26.202.
Only his team-mate Barrichello came close to matching his pace, finishing 0.3s behind the Brit.
Sebastian Vettel, who qualified in third place in his first grand prix weekend for Red Bull Racing, was followed by Robert Kubica, Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock.
Felipe Massa was the best placed Ferrari driver in seventh place, although the Brazilian was 0.83s off the pace.
Meanwhile it was a disappointing afternoon for McLaren with Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton qualifying down in 14th and 15th places with the latter suffering a "drive failure".
As for the back of the pack, despite the numerous new regulations, it was still Toro Rosso and Force India who brought up the rear.
Despite the late afternoon qualifying slot for the Melbourne GP, with sun slanting low creating long shadows in the braking zones, the temperature was still up at 24C with the track at 32C when Giancarlo Fisichella got the 2009 season underway.
Fisichella, in the Force India, set the provisional pole at 1:28.840. This was reduced to 1:27.833 by the Williams of Nico Rosberg which had been quickest in morning practice, making it three practices in a row. He went on to set a faster second lap, while team-mate Kazuki Nakajima reduced P1 to 1:26.752.
Kimi Raikkonen bounced back from a morning hydraulics failure on his Ferrari to reduce P1 to 1:26.615, which Fernando Alonso took to 1:26.474. Rubens Barrichello re-set P1 at 1:26.247 on his first flying lap and then set it down at 1:25.815 on the one that really counted.
Those using the hard tyres in Q1 needed two laps to get temperature into them, but it was significant that McLaren didn't even bother to try the compound and sent Lewis Hamilton out on the green-walled super softs for his opening lap. Lewis's 1:26.454 on his first run was good enough to get him into Q2, but when he went out for his second run he lost drive in the car. He would start from P15 or worse (if he had to change a gearbox in parc ferme).
With four minutes of the session left Felipe Massa found himself in P.20 .The order was: 20. Massa, 19. Fisichella, 18. Trulli, 17. Sutil, 16. Kovalainen 15. Bourdais, 14. Buemi, 13. Raikkonen, 12.Piquet, 11. Webber, 10.Vettel
As the cars flooded onto the track for their final runs, the degree of change, up and down the order, was huge. So many had switched from the hard tyres of their initial runs, to soft tyres for the second, and thus the timing screens pinballed the way they do on a drying track.
Massa elevated himself to P2, Webber jumped to P1, Raikkonen took P4 despite a wheel on the grass in the final sector, Kovalainen jumped to P8, Trulli to P7, Alonso to P9, Glock leapt to P2 while Rubens Barrichello reduced the P1 time to 1:25.006.
In the space of thirty seconds Jarno Trulli's time went down from P7 to P13 but he and the two McLaren drivers survived in P14 and P15 (though Hamilton would not continue).
So - no major scalp in Q1 but the McLarens were mighty close. The usual suspects of Force India, Toro Rosso and Nelson Piquet looked like they might become the Q1 Club of 2009.
With no Hamilton in Q2, there would be just four cars exiting the 15-minute Q2 session. Kimi Raikkonen, continuing a trend he started last year, came out early and set P1 at 1:25.380 for Ferrari.
Timo Glock showed up his more experienced team-mate and stuck his Toyota into P2 with a 1:25.281. Rubens Barrichello could only manage P2 but Jenson Button's Brawn reduced P1 to 1:25.205.
Local boy Mark Webber then thrilled the home crowds by grabbing P2 behind Jenson. The leapfrogging continued with Vettel grabbing P1 for Red Bull with a 1:25.121 and Nico Rosberg taking P2 behind him.
With three minutes of the session left, the danger positions were: 15. Hamilton(out), 14.Kovalainen, 13.Nakajima, 12.Heidfeld, 11.Trulli, 10.Alonso, 9.Massa, 8.Raikkonen, 7.Barrichello
The cars rejoined battle and the two Brawns leapt to the front, Rubens taking P1 with a 1:24.783 and Button P2. Massa improved to P8, Heidfeld moved to a temporary P10, Kovalainen couldn't improve in P14. Trulli managed to take P7, while Nakajima could only set the P12 time.
Fernando Alonso was looking to improve his time but ran wide in the second last corner and his qualifying was over..
So out went:
Such has been the pace of the Williams this weekend that it was a shock to see one of the 'diffuser gang' (Toyota, Williams, Brawn) not make it into Q1 in the shape of Nakajima.
Also interesting to note was the BMW with KERS onboard, Heidfeld, was out, while Robert Kubica, who'd opted to leave it off his BMW had made it through. The two Ferraris had scraped into the top 10 in 9th and 10th, but at least they were there - unlike Mclaren.
The strategy game of GP racing now made its presence felt in qualifying. With Bridgestone now supplying tyres of varying hardness, there is one clear qualifying tyre and one clear racing tyre. With teams limited to four sets of super softs for qualifying, the teams who had scrambled through Q1 on hards now had two sets available for Q3. Brawn were sitting pretty.
Ferrari had to do their first runs in Q3 on hard tyres and save the one set of super softs they had left for the final blast for pole. (Had McLaren got there, they wouldn't have had any super softs at all).
Jenson Button set the initial P1 at 1:26.600, Rubens was over half a second slower at 1:27.161, but nobody was really close to the Brawn duo. Rosberg claimed P3 and then Mark Webber took it off him, with Sebastien Vettel only fractions back in P4 and Kubica in P5.
Felipe Massa's tyres were so slow that he though he had a puncture, but at least he was able to switch to the super softs.
Onto the final runs and Rubens Barrichello snatched pole off Jenson Button. Timo Glock jumped to P3 for Toyota, Rosberg took it off him, Kubica took it off him and then Vettel snatched it off him for the definitive P3.
Mark Webber obviously had the fuel level of Vettel (able to match him on the first run) but failed to improve on his second run and wound up P10, which was a major disappointment. Massa managed to stick his Ferrari in P7 which was a great result in the circumstances.
But the star of the session was Jenson Button and the Brawn team. Button calmly put his Brawn GP on pole with a 1:26.202, three tenths quicker than his team-mate. It was the end of a sporting recovery to end all sporting recoveries. After facing oblivion a month ago, the team were blocking out the front row in Melbourne with a car that will almost certainly remain legal.
It makes that £5m pay cut almost worthwhile.
01 J. Button Brawn GP 1:26.202
02 R. Barrichello Brawn GP 1:26.505
03 S. Vettel Red Bull 1:26.830
04 R. Kubica BMW 1:26.914
05 N. Rosberg Williams 1:26.973
06 T. Glock Toyota 1:26.975
07 F. Massa Ferrari 1:27.033
08 J. Trulli Toyota 1:27.127
09 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:27.163
10 M. Webber Red Bull 1:27.246
11 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:25.504
12 F. Alonso Renault 1:25.605
13 K. Nakajima Williams 1:25.607
14 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:25.726
15 L. Hamilton McLaren no time
16 S. Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:26.503
17 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:26.598
18 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:26.677
19 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:26.742
20 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:26.964
Source : Planet F1