A few weeks ago we had never heard of Brawn GP. Now the team that rose from the dead has sensationally locked out the front row of the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.
Jenson Button took pole position – his first for three years – from Rubens Barrichello. Sebastien Vettel claimed third on the grid while Robert Kubica, fourth, demonstrated the KERS-free BMW is rather quicker than the KERS-enabled car of team mate Nick Heidfeld.
But Lewis Hamilton’s nightmares came true as the MP4-24 struggled not only for pace but also reliability – the car failing to get going at the start of Q2. He starts 15th.
Qualifying part one
Qualifying began with a hectic scrap for honours at the front of the field: Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello all took turns at the top of the teimes. But it was Barrichello who stayed there, with a 1’25.816 pipping Rosberg by 0.031s.
Lewis Hamilton surprised by briefly going second fastest, though he used the super-soft tyres to achieve it while many others were using the medium tyres.
Ferrari revealed some pace with Felipe Massa stepping up to take second, then Kimi Raikkonen fourth having been quickest in the first two sectors but making a mistake in the final one. That left the Force Indias, Sebastien Bourdais, Heikki Kovalainen and, surprisingly, Jarno Trulli in the bottom five, facing the threat of being knocked out.
Mark Webebr sprung a late surprise by going fastest, largely thanks to a very neat and rapid final sector, pulling 0.4s clear of Barrichello. But the Brawn duo struck back – Barrichello posting a 1’25.006, 0.2s faster than his team mate.
Hamilton survived by a scant 0.049s, while Nelson Piquet Jnr was eliminated along with the Toro Rossos and Force Indias.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
16. Sebastien Buemi – 1’26.503
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr – 1’26.598
18. Giancarlo Fisichella – 1’26.677
19. Adrian Sutil – 1’26.742
20. Sebastien Bourdais – 1’26.964
Qualifying part two
Any pleasure Hamilton may have got out of scraping into Q2 was extinguished when his MP4-24 suffered a drive train problem, leaving him stuck in the pits and rooted to 15th on the grid.
Once again the Brawns and Williams looked quick but now the Red Bulls were in the mix as well – Sebastian Vettel edged out Rosberg by 0.002s to go fastest. BMW too showed improvement with Robert Kubica briefly leaping up to third.
Heikki Kovalainen was able to do a lap in his McLaren but he was the slowest of the remaining runners leaving him 14th ahead of Hamilton.
Nakajima was half a second slower than team mate Rosberg which was the difference between fourth and 13th. Alonso was also eliminated, as was Heidfeld in the KERS-boosted BMW, while Kubica in the non-KERS car reached the final stage of qualifying.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
11. Nick Heidfeld – 1’25.504
12. Fernando Alonso – 1’25.605
13. Kazuki Nakajiam – 1’25.607
14. Heikki Kovalainen – 1’25.723
15. Lewis Hamilton – no time
Qualifying part three
The final session featured the Brawns, Ferraris, Toyotas, Red Bulls, Rosberg’s Williams and Kubica’s BMW.
Button was comfortably faster than Barrichello with his first lap, despite making a small mistake, suggesting the two were on different fuel loads. Even so, Rosberg was a whole second slower than Barrichello.
Rosberg was pegged back by the Red Bulls – Webber ahead of Vettel – and Kubica. The Ferraris, surprisingly, were ninth and tenth after the first round of laps.
Barrichello improved his time to take provisional pole with his final effort – but as he crossed the line Button was lighting up the first sector with a new best time, and one minute later he deposed Barrichello – and cemented a front row for Brawn GP.
Vettel grabbed third ahead of a surprisingly quick Kubica while Rosberg, the star of practice, was fifth. But the Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen could manage no better than seventh and eighth.
As Brawn GP is officially classed as a new team, this is the first time a new team has taken pole position in its first race since Mercedes 55 years ago.
Top ten drivers in Q3
1. Jenson Button – 1’26.202
2. Rubens Barrichello – 1’26.505
3. Sebastian Vettel – 1’26.830
4. Robert Kubica – 1’26.914
5. Nico Rosberg – 1’26.973
6. Timo Glock – 1’26.975
7. Felipe Massa – 1’27.033
8. Jarno Trulli – 1’27.127
9. Kimi Raikkonen – 1’27.163
10. Mark Webber – 1’27.246
The weights for the ten cars in the top ten should be announced within the next two hours, giving us an idea of what fuel loads they are running.
Update: Starting grid and fuel weights published: Australian GP grid and race weights