Britain’s Jenson Button claimed pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne — leading a sweep of the front row for Formula One new boys Brawn GP.
Button edged out teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil by three hundredths of a second to claim the fourth pole of his stop start career. But Saturday’s qualifying provided little cheer for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will start 15th on the grid as his McLaren again struggled for pace. Hamilton made the cut for the second session, but a drivetrain failure left him in the pits, while his teammate Heikki Kovalainen could only manage 14th fastest. Ferrari were also off the pace with Felipe Massa qualifying seventh best and Kimi Raikkonen in ninth. It is the first time in 38 races that neither a Ferrari of McLaren is on the front row for a grand prix. Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid on his debut for Red Bull, with Robert Kubica also performing superbly for BMW Sauber — the Pole joining the promising young German on the second row. Nico Rosberg, who topped the timesheets at the end of all three practice sessions, is fifth for Williams, followed by Timo Glock for Toyota as the established order of F1 was turned on its head. Button will be aiming for the second victory of his 154 grand prix career in a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the former Honda team whose future looked bleak when the Japanese car manufacturer pulled out of the sport late last year blaiming the global economic downturn.
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But a management buyout led by technical guru Ross Brawn rescued the team at the last minute and secured drives for Button and Barrichello. After taking a new team to pole for the first time since Tyrell in March 1970, Button gave his thrilled reaction. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a car that’s been very competitive,” Button told Press Association. “But there are a few people who stand by you, and a few people who don’t because they don’t believe. “Now we’ve a very good car, and although this is not the most important moment of the weekend, it’s still a very good start.”