Brawn GP became the first Formula One team in 39 years to take pole position in its debut race when Jenson Button secured front place on the grid for Sunday's season-opening Australian GP.
Button’s time of 1 minute, 26.202 seconds on Saturday edged out teammate Rubens Barrichello by three tenths of a second, giving the F1 newcomers both positions on the front row for Sunday’s race. It was the fourth pole position of Button’s career — his first since the 2006 Australian GP — and completed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the England-based team, which was threatened with extinction when former owner Honda pulled out of the sport after the 2008 season.
Before former Ferrari strategist and Honda team principal Ross Brawn took over the team from the Japanese automaker, Button and Barrichello faced the prospect of looking for a new job and watching this weekend's action on television.
“Going from not having a drive and no future in racing to putting it on pole here is just amazing,” Button said. “This is a great moment, not the most important of the weekend, but a great start.”
The Brawn performance may be a welcome taste of novelty for F1 fans, but rival teams were less enthusiastic.
The team is racing under appeal, with a protest over the design of its rear diffuser to be heard by the sport's governing body FIA after the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 14, jeopardizing any points gained in the season's first two GP races.
Williams and Toyota are also subject to the appeal. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, ahead of BMW's Robert Kubica and Williams' Nico Rosberg. Toyota pair Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli qualified sixth and eighth respectively, but were then sent to the back of the grid after stewards ruled their rear wings were too flexible.
None of the top six drivers are using the KERS power-boost system this year, illustrating how problematical the technology is proving for teams as they balance its power boost against its additional weight and effect on car design. The highest of the KERS runners is Felipe Massa, who will start sixth.
Clean is Virgin target
Brawn GP can lead a ‘clean fuel’ revolution in F1, British entrepreneur Richard Branson said after his Virgin Group agreed a sponsorship deal with the sport's newest team. Branson told a news conference that a Virgin-backed company had developed a clean fuel that could change F1’s dirty image.