Brawn and brains put Button on top

Fairytale start for new outfit as Briton goes from having no drive to pole

They sat there in the spotlight, and the emotions chased themselves across their faces. Relief. Dis- belief. Exhilaration. Satisfaction. Jenson Button, handsome, with his shaggy beard and ready smile, and now a fourth pole position to celebrate. Rubens Barrichello, craggy now in a manner befitting his status as the sport's veteran, with the second front-row slot.

Not since Max Mosley and Robin Herd's maverick March team burst on to the scene in South Africa in 1970 had a new F1 outfit started from the front row on their debut. What made it even sweeter was that three months ago the team didn't even know if they had jobs, following Honda's withdrawal. Man, they must be steaming with themselves back in the boardroom in Tokyo.

Here in Australia, the new team owner, Ross Brawn, a passionate angler, was beaming as though he had just landed the biggest fish of his life. And in a sense he had, for that very morning Sir Richard Branson had inked a sponsorship contact.

Welcome to F1, 2009 style.

All those myriad regulation changes that were designed to slow the cars down? Well, Button's pole undercut Lewis Hamilton's from 2008 by half a second. But the other aim was to stir things up, and the new rules certainly achieved that. The leading Ferrari was Felipe Massa's in a humbling sixth place on the grid. Hamilton, the reigning world champion, of course, will start back in 18th in a gripless McLaren.

Third place on the grid went to the Red Bull upstart Sebastian Vettel, fourth to BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, ahead of Nico Rosberg, who had set the pace throughout practice. Originally sixth and eighth were the fancied Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Vettel's partner, local boy Mark Webber. But after qualifying the two Toyotas were moved to the back of the grid when their rear wings were found to contravene rules on flexibility, while Williams withdrew a protest against the sidepod design of the Ferrari and Red Bull cars.

Brawn had been the pacesetters ever since they started testing, but going fast in the winter is not always the same as going fast at races. "It seemed like a lot of cars were setting a similar pace, which is what surprised me," Button admitted, but some may have been running light on fuel, planning three refuelling stops instead of the usual two.

The Brawns maintained their dominance, some of which is due to a trick design of diffuser that had Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault up in arms on Thursday until the race stewards said the cars were legal. The latter three teams have protested, and the matter will be settled once and for all by the FIA International Court of Appeal in Paris on 14 April, after next weekend's Malaysian GP, but for now the "D class" cars were free to exploit their designers' cunning.

"The last five or six months for us have been so tough," Button said, "so going from not having a drive, or any future in racing, to putting it on pole here is just amazing." He played second fiddle to Barrichello when they ran low fuel loads in the first and second qualifying sessions, but came into his own in the third, when teams run with race fuel loads.

"This morning the pace seemed to be pretty good and I was reasonably happy," Button continued, "but you don't know other people's pace until qualifying, and they seemed closer than I'd thought. I was struggling on low fuel, couldn't get the car right, and then it felt more normal with fuel aboard for the final session.

"It's been a long time since we had a car that's been competitive, since we got pole here in 2006. There's been a lot of people who've stood beside us and a few who don't believe in us any more, but the team do and that's what mattered. It's a good car, but you still have to get the most from it."

What greater contrast could there have been in fortunes for Button and Hamilton? The latter's qualifying was a disaster as a broken gear forced a gearbox change. "Something broke on the rear of my car on my second flying lap in Q1 [the first qualifying session]," Lewis explained. "I just lost all drive in the gearbox and couldn't continue. But I'm determined to drive an attacking race – we'll have some fun."

With a 5pm start here the race is run almost in the twilight zone. "It'll be difficult with shade and low sun, and this is a park circuit, so there's a lot of trees with sun shining through them," Button said reflectively. "But it's obviously easier from the front than from the back."

How long he has waited to be in a position to say that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York