Jenson Button leads Brawn GP 1-2 (Australian Grand Prix qualifying)

Jenson Button took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix
Jenson Button took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix

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

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, Melbourne, 2009
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, Melbourne, 2009

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

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2009
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2009

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

Jenson Button, Brawn GP, Melbourne, 2009
Jenson Button, Brawn GP, Melbourne, 2009

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

Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel, Melbourne, 2009
Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel, Melbourne, 2009

170 comments on “Jenson Button leads Brawn GP 1-2 (Australian Grand Prix qualifying)”

  1. The look of joy and confidence on Button’s face before training even began said everything: after years of frustration, a bewilderingly unexpected chance to head the field. Fantastic! I do think this will be for just 3 or 4 races before Ferrari take the front, but if he, Barrichello, Williams, BMW and Toyota can maximize their points now, they can make a real fight of it. The only question will be if they will take points of each other rather than, say, Braun, finishing 1-2 regularly tomorrow and over the next few races. Whatever the case, should be fun!

  2. Last time there was a rule change of this scale with car design so significantly different to the previous season, 1998, we had two teams that really took a lead, and who remained in that position all the way through to last season. The teams were of course McLaren and Ferrari, and the designers of those cars were Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn respectively. Since then the cars which were effectively developments of those two original 1998 cars have been consistently in the same position.

    2009. Major rule change again. Brawn GP and Red Bull seemingly have the edge thus far. Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey, as before.

    Coincidence? We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

    Is it really the top teams? Or maybe it’s just the top designers?

    1. Lol. They actually did say that when he entered F1 didn’t they?

      Actually, he first needs to beat Barrichello. Button was lucky that he ended up in front of Barrichello in qualifying in Q3.

  3. I don’t think anyone commented on this, but I can’t help wondering what would have happened if Adrian Newey had gotten the correct answer when they inquired about the “alternative” diffuser interpretation.

    Apparently they asked wether the diffuser desing was allowed and were told that it wasn’t. So they went with the regular diffuser layout and I can understand their anger that they feel misled by FIA.

    1. Oh, maybe I’m confused then. There was someone really upset that they asked permission and were turned down and now others have it.

      Not sure what they asked permisson for either of course. Maybe it wasn’t for the double decker diffuser, but just for incorporating the crash structure into the diffuser (which is more apparent).

  4. Well BrawnGP, Williams, and Toyota sure have made the rest of the teams look like suckers with their sweet large flow diffusers. All 3 of those teams are racing way ahead of where they should be due to the diffusers.

    Plus if I was running KERS…i’d have my crew working around the clock to take it off my cars and use ballast to perfect the balance like BrawnGP has done.

    Only fools will run KERS for the rest of the season.

    Also, Hamilton should just let his brother race the car this season and just take a sabbatical. The MP4-24 is a piece of junk. McLaren should just dump those things in the English Channel on the way back from all these fly-aways.

    1. hahahaah. i for one look forward to seeing Hamilton where Button was last year…we’ll see how long the plaudits last for Hamilton this season if he’s replaced as ‘no 1′ british driver…

  5. well we’ll see how long BrawnGP stays competitive after the other teams get large air flow diffusers on their car.

    I suspect they will begin to slide down the field as the season progresses, and richard branson won’t have that smug grin on his face anymore.

    just throwing it out there…who do you think will be the first team to take KERS off their cars? I’m guessing McLaren.

  6. Keith and all,

    I think this quals as a cindarella story. I mean from a team non competitive to no team to a buy out and a new engine and car and now a 1-2 qual with the look of a 1-2 on the race (as long as the car holds out) and we have the same drivers. I quess that proves it was not the drivers that were the problem.

    1. True, but the Brawn car has been in development ever since Honda gave up on the 08 season since their 08 car was such a dud.

      Brawn’s brains, Honda’s $$$, nearly a year of development, superior diffuser, and no KERS. I would expect a quality car.

    2. It’s a little bit of a Cincerella story, but like Allie says it’s Honda’s money that got them where they are.

      What I want to know is what were the discussions at the team like when Honda were preparing to sell? Was Brawn stood there trying to convince them they had a winning car on their hands but they wouldn’t listen?

    3. Keith,

      Good question. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at Honda when the discussions were taking place.

      Of course, if Brawn was trying to convince them that they had a winning/competitive car for ’09, he had no chance against the backdrop of their ’08 season, the global financial meltdown, and the collapse of Honda’s global auto sales.

  7. @ Keith
    . . . or was he politely keeping his mouth shut, thinking “we could take this car to new owners or a new team and really clean up.”

  8. Ross is the best chess player out there. Someone suggested he is reaping the hard work of Honda engineers, but that’s just silly.

    Honda inherited a handful of engineers from Super Aguri, from which they had brought the idea of the alternative diffuser. Proof that small and smart can be better than big and rich. Some of the engineers worked on the 2009 car, and so it has the diffuser, and the rest worked on the old car. All of this was overseen and guided by Ross Brawn.

    I think It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that Brawn may not have put too much energy into encouraging Honda to stay, knowing as he did that he had a potential winner on his hands. Of course, we don’t know the details. Honda may have a clause that allows them to buy back in, but that would have to mean continuing to develop an engine, since they would never use the Merc lump.

  9. brauns smarter than your average brain surgeon and rocket scientist put together,he was stuck with a pig of a car last year and how demoralising must it have been for jensen and rubens having to drive a car that wasn’t as quick as their hire car.Ross saw potential otherwise he wouldn’t have gone there,now he and the drivers especialy should wallow in their new found potential to cut it with the big spenders.Just remember, good drivers are always quick given the right car.As good as alonso and hamilton are and schuey was you can only drive a bad handling car quickly in a straight line, you drive it quickly round corners and you drive it into the tyres.I just hope it lasts for more than one race.

  10. Did anyone read the press conference???

    Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) I have already asked Jenson this question in Thursday’s press conference, so this is to Rubens and Sebastian. With all the rule changes this year, do you think we will see more overtaking, not only in tomorrow’s race but throughout the season?
    RB: I think so, I think that there are some teams with KERS and some others without it, so you’re going to see some overtaking because of that. You might see more overtaking on a proper track, you will see overtaking on this road circuit but it’s because of people making mistakes. You always do see overtaking here in Melbourne anyway, with the visibility being a problem and so on, I think the race is going to be quite a good one. Plus, the wings help. They don’t fix the problem but the moveable wings help, so that could help overtaking too.

    SV: I know I’m small but I was also in Thursday’s press conference, next to Jenson!

    RB: That was the best answer so far!

    SV: You’d better be quiet, you’re even smaller!

    RB: No, no, you’re answer was the best answer so far. – I gave him a compliment – ******* German! (laughter)

    SV: But to come to Australia, I think it’s a very difficult circuit to overtake on, so it will be interesting tomorrow, but I think it still remains difficult.


    go Jenson……. Go

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