Jenson Button, showing his colors on the Formula One course viewed as the best canvas for the artist, threw down fast lap Saturday at the ultimate moment to claim pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monaco. The primo starting position is the fourth in...
Jenson Button, showing his colors on the Formula One course viewed as the best canvas for the artist, threw down fast lap Saturday at the ultimate moment to claim pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monaco. The primo starting position is the fourth in six races for the Brawn GP driver who leads the FIA World Drivers' Championship with five victories.
"I think Jenson is getting into the habit of saving his best for last," the Englishman's boss Ross Brawn told BBC Sport. "He knew that was the lap where he had to produce, and he's just driving exceptionally well at the moment."
Button will need perhaps more than his best to outdrag front-row fellow Kimi Raikkonen to the first corner, Ste. Devote. Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes are the two kinetic energy recovery system (KERS)-equipped teams in the field. Conversely, the value of KERS might be reduced on the cramped little course that covers only 2.075 miles. Raikkonen needs a measure of space and speed before he can use the KERS power boost.
Button covered the circuit in 1 minute, 14.902 seconds to pip Raikkonen (1:14.927).The Finn bailed on his final lap chance after he went offline in the first corner. Behind Button is his teammate, birthday celebrant, and fellow fuzzy face Rubens Barrichello (1:15.077). Barrichello, holder of more Monaco points than anyone who hasn't won this race, starts next to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. Vettel, for the fifth time this season, put a Renault engine customer ahead of the factory effort.
On the third row, in evidence of the Scuderia's push to the front, is the other Ferrari, of father-to-be Felipe Massa. The Brazilian who squeaked through first qualifying after sliding off and bruising the F60's nose at the swimming pool, is next to Williams F1's Nico Rosberg. Heikki Kovalainen takes the fourth row with Red Bull's Mark Webber. Two-time Monaco winner Fernando Alonso, who has started no lower than 10th this season, heads the fifth row next to Rosberg teammate Kazuki Nakajima. The Japanese makes his best start this year and shows Toyota engine customers, too, to be quicker than factory-backed counterparts.
Thereafter follow the five drivers who failed to advance from the second of three qualifying sessions: Scuderia Toro Rosso star Sebastien Buemi, Alonso's Renault teammate Nelson Piquet, Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais, and Force India's Adrian Sutil. Buemi said a mistake cost him the top 10. Bourdais is fighting off rumors that he is at loggerheads with team manager Franz Tost, the fellow famed for an exit pas de deus with long-gone Scott Speed. Both cars through to Q2 marks Mercedes-powered Force India's best effort of the season.
Final placers on the grid were the five drivers who could not advance from the first session: Lewis Hamilton for McLaren Mercedes, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber, and Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock of Toyota. Hamilton, who seemed to be leading a McLaren revival, clouted a wall and put himself out with a damaged left rear suspension. When it was learned his MP4-24's gearbox would need a change, too, he was demoted to the back of the grid. World Champion Hamilton became the latest top driver to have Q1 go wrong; Massa, Raikkonen, Kovalainen and Webber have suffered the ignominy. Kubica was among their number, but after Saturday's dismal performance, BMW Sauber seem to be marking territory at the back, their methodical progression since joining F1 in 2006 having ground to a halt. Trulli, a past winner here, said Alonso blocked him on a flying lap. Glock conceded the team that made such a promising season start are off the boil.
Brawn GP, despite its late debut after Honda quit the sport in December, are reaping the benefit of spending most of last season designing a car for a rules overhaul. They top the constructors table and their drivers are one-two in the drivers competition.
"Today was a really tight fight," Button said. "All through the weekend, I've been fighting with Rubens or Rubens has definitely had the upper hand, and, you know, the McLarens have been up there, the Ferraris have been up there, the Red Bulls, the Williams, I mean it's been a fun weekend, I think, for every one involved and, hopefully, the viewers, and qualifying was no different. It was manic, as it always is in Monaco, I suppose. It's great to come away with the pole. I was right on the edge on that lap and to snatch pole, I'm chuffed to bits."
Principality resident Button, who expressed fears he was heading for the harbor at one moment, a feat not really possible anymore, said the pole lap showed sure progress for the Brawn GP BGP001, which started practice on Thursday morning needing to improve.
"That's the great thing with this car," Button said. "If I was (sic) driving last year's car (the late, unlamented Honda RA108) and I was starting Thursday as we were, I would have massively struggled because it didn't listen. But this car listens to changes. It's great to be pole."
Raikkonen, who bounced back from his qualifying disaster in Spain that left him 16th to start, kicked up the excitement in the second qualifying session by throwing out a 1 minute, 14.514 second-lap that was more than two-tenths faster than fellow Finn Kovalainen right behind. Raikkonen, your 2007 World Champion, held pole until Button completed his flier.
"The car hasn't been too bad here," Raikkonen said. 'Since the first practice, it's always been getting better and better, and the circuit has been picking up the grip, so in qualifying the car was good. It was a good result for us, especially in this kind of place."
Barrichello, too, praised his car and expressed satisfaction with starting no lower than third. Every winner since 1996 has come from one of the first three grid spots.
"Honestly, I thought I had the upper hand on Jenson today," Barrichello, 37, said. "He must have had a fantastic lap because my lap was really good, and I'm happy with it."