|Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and the rest of the Brawn GP brass at the Virgin sponsorship announcement in Oz|
The newly Virgin-branded Brawn's winter testing victory translated on Saturday into locking out the front row of the grid for the 2009 season opener.
After Williams' Nico Rosberg captured the fastest times in all three pre-qualifying practice sessions, Jenson Button shifted into a higher gear to capture pole in Australia.
On the day in which the team announced its new partnership with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, Jenson Button put the BGP 001 car on pole at the end of a closely-fought qualifying hour. Teammate Rubens Barrichello will start alongside Jenson on the front row of the grid for tomorrow's 58-lap race.
|A happy Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will start 1-2 on Sunday|
The BGP 001 cars ran at the front of the field throughout qualifying with the team's two drivers vying for position at the top of the timesheets. Rubens took the honors in Q1 and Q2, posting the fastest lap of qualifying in the second session. In the pole position shoot-out, both drivers completed two runs with Jenson taking pole in the dying seconds of the session.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel joined the white-overalled drivers from Brackley in the post-session press conference.
Lewis Hamilton's first weekend as reigning world champion went from bad to worse in qualifying: yet again slower than his McLaren teammate, and forced to sit out 'Q2' with what he disconsolately told reporters was a broken component in the rear of his MP4-24.
A year after winning at Albert Park, he is fifteenth on the grid, one place behind the sister McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen, who on Saturday was quicker only than the slow Toro Rossos, Force Indias and Nelson Piquet.
Elsewhere, the field is incredibly closely matched and equally hard to read: BMW's Nick Heidfeld is seven places behind his teammate, Rosberg eight places ahead of Kazuki Nakajima, and local driver Mark Webber seven places behind Vettel.
The struggling Ferraris are just seventh and ninth on the grid, while neither Renault graduated into the top-ten runout.
Polesitter Button couldn't be happier. "To put the car on pole at our debut race is a fantastic achievement and I have to give so much credit to Ross, Nick and everyone at the factory in Brackley. The last four months have been incredibly tough for the team and to go from a situation where you don't even know if you are going to be racing to achieving pole at the first race of the season is just incredible. Tomorrow is obviously the most important day of the weekend and there is a lot of work to be achieved to come away with a successful result however we have to remember where we have been and really enjoy this moment."
|Top-3 qualifiers (L to R) Vettel, Button and Barrichello|
His teammate Rubens Barrichello was also ecstatic. "It has been a great day and I want to congratulate the team for an outstanding job. I was hoping that I could put the car on pole and it was looking good in the first two sessions but in Q3 I developed some understeer in the car which comprised my final runs. However the first row for both cars is a real credit to the team and gives us a great chance in the race tomorrow. We have a really good car which everyone deserves credit for and I am just so happy to be racing at the front again."
Team owner Ross Brown could not be happier with his team's debut. "Watching our two cars top the timesheets throughout qualifying capped an excellent day for the team which began with the announcement of our new partnership with Virgin this afternoon. The track conditions were more favorable than we experienced yesterday and we found that the tires worked in a more conventional way. In addition, the changes that we had made following yesterday's practice sessions proved positive and both drivers had a well-balanced car which allowed them to concentrate on maximizing the lap times. Whilst this is a great achievement and gives both drivers an excellent opportunity in the race tomorrow, the job is only half done and our full focus is now on getting the best result possible in the race. I would like to pay credit to Jenson, Rubens and the whole team, both here and at our factory, for their achievement today and to Mercedes-Benz for their invaluable support over the past few months."
With the status quo turned upside down in qualifying, Sunday's race is sure to be a thriller.